This is not normal!” that was the declaration made by New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean this week in the first major speech by a Liberal politician linking the terrible bushfires affecting the state and the effects of climate change. There is no doubt that NSW is facing conditions far from the traditional conditions. It is a well-known that November and December are meant to be wet months full of early summer rains. 

The Bureau of Meteorology figures show that the average November rainfall for the Sydney weather station is 83.8mm but November 2019 figures show that the total rainfall for that month was 26.2mm. This is 31% of the average. Only a year ago (November 2018), Sydney recorded a total monthly rainfall of 176.2mm or 209% of the average. 

Matt Kean is absolutely correct to call for action on climate change. There is clear lack of action from the Coalition and from the Liberals but why is there such a refusal to even consider action. Why is there no action from the Prime Minister? 

There is an opportunity for Liberals to take control of the debate by leaving the ideological debate to those who wish to fight it and make climate change an economic and business debate. 

The practical solutions and road map to achieve this is there, if only the Prime Minister would stop and look. He should come out and agree with Matt Kean that the fires are linked to Climate Change, then focus the debate on transferring the Australian economy from a coal-based economy to a clean energy economy. 

There will be those who will immediately raise hell about the risk to jobs and the economy. There is no reason to suggest these changes should occur tomorrow, why not aim to achieve them by 2040-2050. Give the economy 30 years to transfer over, start the investing now and build on it from there. 

There needs to always be a focus on ensuring that the losses of jobs caused by the changes are planned for and addressed as part of the transfer. We can start setting targets and working towards them. The best plans and transformations are those which have clear and achievable targets set in advance. We have a chance to lead the world and become Asia’s battery for clean energy in the future. 

There are plenty of projects that will help develop Australia towards achieving this goal. And the good thing is they can happen without government funding or involvement. Projects such as the Asian Renewable Hub and Sun Cable are privately funded and well underway.

Modelling by Windlab shows that to achieve 50% renewables, we only need to invest in Snowy 2.0 as well as additional wind and solar that produce 800MWhrs in South Australia. Australia could make it to 70% renewables with the addition on top of those investments, of 1.5 million Australian homes with batteries. 

This is not just about action; it is about honesty. It is time for the Federal Government to be honest about the issues confronting NSW and the country as a whole. Following the example of Matt Kean may provide an answer for how the Prime Minister and Federal Government can take action on Climate Change. 85% of the Australian public is in favour of taking action on Climate Change. There is a clear desire for action which Matt Kean has decided not to ignore and to accept and comment upon.

Now is the time for the Government to come up with a BHAG – A big hairy audacious goal, take control of the energy debate by making it about our economic future and not just an important social issue. 

David Nixon

Director and Advisor

12 December 2019