Let’s win the climate wars

Realistic, bold, and influential: just some of the words to describe the delivery by NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean at last week’s Smart Energy Summit where he said enough was enough: it’s time to tackle the climate emergency.


The Sydney Summit coincided with a city shrouded in smoke from bushfires that had been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, and the worst drought in living memory, said the Liberal party minister.


“Let’s not beat around the bush and let’s call it for what it is… the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change,” he said, setting the scene for a frank address.


“There has been a lot of talk since the federal election about ending the climate wars. I think that that talk has been misplaced.


“It’s not time to end the climate wars … it’s time to win the climate wars,” Matt Kean said, to a round of applause from the 300 delegates at the Summit.


“Taking action to reduce our emissions today is not about a cost that we are morally obliged to pay, it’s about taking an economic opportunity that we would be negligent to miss,” he declared.


“Renewables today are the cheapest form of new generation, but more importantly they can produce electricity at close to zero marginal cost.”


The NSW Energy and Environment Minister went on to describe the huge opportunity awaiting Australia across every part of the economy, from cars to steel manufacturing, cement production and more.


He also highlighted the findings of Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel about the opportunity of hydrogen to add between $11 and $26 billion per year in additional GDP by 2050, and produce up to 50 per cent of the world’s hydrogen needs.


“This isn’t just an opportunity to be the Saudi Arabia of solar. It’s an opportunity to be the Middle East of energy,” he astutely observed.


But there are roadblocks.


“We cannot allow ideology and politics to get in the way of our clear path to secure our economic prosperity, let alone the health of our planet for generations of Australians.


“To those vested interests and ideologues who want to stand in the way of this transition, I say enjoy your Kodak moment because the energy iPhone is on its way.”


The thrust of Matt Kean’s address, against a backdrop of smoke filled Sydney streets, headlined national newspapers and dominated TV news for the rest of the week, igniting discussion over the federal coalition’s failure to tackle climate change and ask where the hell was the Prime Minister? Why was he mute on the topic of the climate emergency?


Ten days on, the impact of Matt Kean’s address continues to reverberate.


As Summit event organiser Wayne Smith said: “This Smart Energy Summit has had a more profound impact in shifting the climate debate than any held before. It is unprecedented in its coverage and significance. We now have more politicians speaking up and calling for action on climate.”


Among them is Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley who in a radio interview stated “The dryness of the vegetation, particularly in the north of NSW, and the reduced streamflow is creating unprecedented [conditions]. That’s what climate science has told me and I completely agree with it.”


NSW Liberal MP Jason Falinski said “Climate change is contributing to the fire situation. We need to take practical steps at home, and be ambitious abroad.”


He said this at the time of the COP25 talks in Madrid at which the Federal Emissions Minster was talking up Australia’s environmental credentials and emission track record, to a disbelieving audience.


View Minister Matt Kean’s speech in full at https://vimeo.com/378922153 

The speech can also be viewed on the website of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.