Below is the RepresentUs Movement platform of policies, draft acts of Parliament and Constitutional amendments, which would represent a serious and timely action plan - by our Common Wealth government - all Australians - and our three tiers of government - in response to the rapidly approaching climate catastrophe.
This document aims to start a public discussion on government actions grounded in economic, human and geophysical reality. What this framework could achieve is a transition to a carbon neutral Australia within seven to ten years without leaving any Australian behind. It would also mean that we could guarantee every Australian a full-time meaningful job in the pursuit of waging a war on climate change instead of the poor.
We, the people of the Australia, and every other people, are currently in a global climate emergency. Two hundred years of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use have destabilized and warmed our atmosphere.
These human-caused emissions have increasingly disrupted the biosphere of which we are a part and upon which our lives depend. Most of these emissions and warming have occurred in the last several decades with no appreciable halting of them since the beginning, starting in the late 1990’s, of efforts at climate policy. Human life and civilization are dependent on a myriad of biological systems which it is highly unlikely will be heat-resistant and climate-change-resistant enough to withstand the current and upcoming high temperatures, acidification of the oceans, and radically altered climate. Positive feedback loops, where human-caused warming now is leading non-human systems (like melting permafrost) to add to that warming. This paints a dire picture for humanity without a vigorous, concerted response.
The climate crisis is the most severe and pressing of a series of crises of sustainability and crises of the integrity of earth systems that are now encroaching on human civilization, the consequences of what might be called a “throw-away” society.
Other biophysical crises include:
If the climate crisis is eased via decisive action, then these sustainability crises must be addressed in rapid succession or we will move from one critical global emergency to another. Additionally, the means used to address the most pressing crises should ideally have some benefits in diminishing the severity of other critical resource shortages and destruction of our and co-evolved species’ habitats.
We are also facing multiple social crises that are linked to the concept of a throwaway society.
As engaging and compelling as conflicts between political and cultural groups are we cannot forget that we must unite, in some form, around this critical climate emergency in order to survive in any organized form as a civilization. Human-caused warming and acidifying emissions must cease rapidly. The effects of previously emitted warming gases in the atmosphere on global temperatures must be dampened to buy time. The already expectable effects of warming, such as droughts, more severe storms, and sea level rise must be guarded against to preserve a basis for civilization.
All of this suggests that the only rational response is a massive, unprecedented emergency mobilization from the Australian government and its population as well as other nations and international organizations such as the United Nations. The required massive effort will apply both moral and financial means to mobilize people and resources to preserve a habitable world.
There is and will be no fixed amount of government-supplied financial resources in the effort to rescue our human species from its likely self-destruction. The Australian government can create and destroy dollars as dictated by its fiscal policy the product of a political struggle between a number of competing ethical goals, fiscal philosophies, and interest groups. The Australian economy is robust and generally stable, however, the common wealth government investment in people, goods and services is likely to need to be doubled to wage an effective war on climate change in our nation.
To build a net-zero carbon emitting and climate resilient basis for civilization is warranted and necessitated by the dire geophysical situation we have created for ourselves. Thus, in this twenty year emergency period, we will be functioning similarly as a wartime economy. Therefore, government payments will make up perhaps one third to one half of all economic demand.
For the Australian federal government, effective climate action will take its place alongside the immediate survival of Australian citizenry and prevention of bodily harm from physical attack as one of the top spending priorities. As in wartime, the fiscal functions of the federal government shall be fully utilized for this vital national priority. There can be no more appropriate use of money, (a convention invented by people that we use to measure value), than the preservation of humanity and the ability for humanity to prosper into the future.
With the increase in the injection of government funds into the economy, stimulating demand for real goods and services that will reduce emissions and increase climate stability, the management of the value of the currency is a concern, as it also has been in past wartime mobilizations. Even with the very highest ethical and economic goals and intentions as these are, too much demand, too much money plus human wishes, can increase the price of certain key goods and services, if they are in scarcer supply than demanded.
The acceleration of government investment will take into account the productive capacity of the economy to produce the necessary goods and services. So, a variety of additional tools will be used to keep the value of the dollar stable because our lives and those of our children depend on it.
These tools will include voluntary conservation efforts, targeted taxation and delayed consumption via climate bond savings programs, which would reduce effective demand for non-essential, non-critical goods and services. However, despite the attention to these safeguards, the contemporary tendency in supposedly savvy financial circles to place inflationary fears above all concerns cannot be the starting point for a program of self-rescue of the human species from its fossil fuel addiction. More likely, real, (i.e. non-financial resources), whether human or from non-human nature, may well constrain our efforts to save our species. However, the invented resource of money that originates as a shared, public resource – derived from our common wealth - will not be the critical brake on our efforts.
The Australian economy will be completely decarbonized (net zero carbon emissions) by no later than 2035 with additional targets to reduce existing carbon dioxide concentrations from the atmosphere (currently 402 ppm) and oceans thereafter to target a range from 280 to 350 ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to target a return of the oceans to the pH levels measured in the mid-20th Century.
Effective and timely climate action, in a combination of public investment and rule-making, will involve bringing into the public sector certain key, currently fossil-fuel dependent, portions of the economy as well as producing within the public domain critical pieces of infrastructure and financial tools required to decarbonize the private economy rapidly. Both financial and moral incentives will mobilize people and material resources while rule-making and enforcement will direct building activities and constrain destructive or climate-damaging activities.
The use of government tools are not reflective of any claim about the categorical superiority or inferiority of the public versus the private sector, a long-running political debate that is at least 100 years old. Much of this debate consists of positions that mask various political and economic interests or represent commitments to simplified images of how society functions but do not shed much light on the functions of either government, private capital or markets.
The tools of government will lead effective climate action because these tools are capable of different functions, other than those of private companies and households.
One such function is to represent the long-term interests of the public, a forgotten function in an era of mistaken economic ideas and political cynicism. Despite the current neoliberal fashion in political discourse, the laws and institutional actions of the state are still the one of the prime repositories of the effective morality of our society as well as vital to the functioning of the economy in “normal” times.
Undertaking effective climate action will require a somewhat higher standard of morality to become the norm among humanity, especially as regards instant gratification of material wishes. We will need to embed our care for ourselves and future generations, biased towards the latter, in the laws and economic policy of government.
Too often mainstream climate policy has been based on a fetishized market as the sole picture of an effective social and economic organization. Climate policy and therefore politics, shrouded in idealized and unrealistic ideas about both how society functions and the specific domain of climate action, has lost sight of the technological tools, the real social matrix of action, and the geophysical goals that would make climate action effective. Read more …
Climate action is not a hobby-horse for a particular social science theory or love of a particular technological tool. Effective emissions reductions and technological change must be brought about by the right and effectively implemented, evidence based, economic, political and social tools.
From outside the mainstream of climate policy discourse, there are contentions that are broadly true that the capture of capitalism by vested interests, (and the organization of production and consumption associated with capitalism), have brought us to the brink of this climatic abyss. The structuring of society and material production around the accumulation of monetary units as a form of savings or profit, i.e. capitalism, has led also to the stimulation of appetites for the consumption of more physical goods and services that have in turn involved increased and accelerating emissions and wastage of parts of the planet’s surface.
Corporate interests, (as well as, often, the immediate consumers of their products), heedlessly shed or push costs onto others and the non-human environment. In the absence of constant monitoring and regulation viewed as “costly” and inimical to their business interests this has accelerated the crisis.
The wealthiest use the most resources per person for their own consumption yet their forms of consumption, envied by many, are mimicked to the degree that individual means will allow and individual inclination will direct.
In a carbon limited and resource constrained world, the unlimited pursuit of, on the one hand, monetary units as the central representation of overall social value and, on the other, accompanying material over - consumption and overproduction, as a statement of social status, must be curtailed in some effective in a realistic fashion, in order for our species to survive.
At the same time, the joy and delight in material things will continue and co-exist with new or re-discovered enjoyments of rapport with other human beings, with the co-evolved living world, and with our common fate. Human beings will still continue to focus on tangible, visible objects and personal property for realistic and emotional reasons. However, crucially importantly, our economy will be repurposed to serve the greater good rather than the neoliberal focus on the owners of the common wealth and the real resources it is comprised of serving the economy.
On a practical level, effective climate action is inescapably about replacing the use of one set of tools with other sets of tools, with and without different social practices. The technical knowledge plus commercial ability to repeatedly produce and deploy these tools, goods and services has been over the last couple of centuries largely embedded in a combination of profit seeking corporations and government science and technology agencies. The former being more focused on deployment of technologies in the economy itself, and motivated in large part by financial self-interest. One set of tools and infrastructure, fossil-fuel dependent ones, must be replaced with incredible rapidity with another set of tools and infrastructure.
Monetary self-interest is a powerful motivator and boom - times within capitalism have shown how quickly people and businesses can act when they see a potential profit for themselves. Therefore, a focused government constructed economic “boom” in climate solutions funded and steered by government must take place.
Furthermore, beyond the need for rapidity, the capitalist ethic of success or failure, “deal or no deal” is also critical to the success of effective climate action. Distinct “deliverables” must be created and installed either by private and / or public entities in a myriad of physical and social situations and to a myriad of “customers”. Distinct conditions of real world performance, instilled either by customers but most often by governments, must be attached to the completion and functioning of these products and services. They must actually cut emissions while providing services.
The critics of capitalism, who have often seen this focus on the ends without regard for the means used to diminish the welfare of ordinary people and sometimes fought against it, do not have currently a replacement for this reward system for successful completion of transactions and projects. Monetary rewards can shape human behaviour to serve other people via defined contractual obligations, as they also can, often simultaneously, be a system of self - and other - exploitation. It is for this reason that this policy blueprint does not reject Capitalism, but rather, focuses on democratising it again.
Holding doggedly to the truthful overarching theme of climate change as overreach led by capitalism and capitalists of various kinds, most traditional radical Left or religious (for instance Pope Francis) critics of capitalism as an entirely faulty system still do not have a plausible plan for taking practical next steps to curb emissions. The best that critics of Capitalism have come up with is a general call, rather than a complete, though never precisely specified revolution, in the economic system must take place.
Recommendations for immediate overthrow of capitalism have the effect of rote repetition of left or religious ascetic dogma with paltry support from historical reality for their efficacy, either as a benefit to the environment or to general social welfare. In partial agreement with some aspects of the critics of Capitalism, the RepresentUs Movement believes a radical shift in values and priorities must take place and that a political revolution of some kind is inevitable. However, such a movement must bring along with it hundreds of millions of practical people who are not only hands-on or frontline workers but entrepreneurs, managers and accountants.
Moral persuasion, be it for revolution or reform, or force of law alone cannot achieve the end of hundreds of millions of people working together in differentiated ‘teams’ to actually bring about the massive physical changes required. Combining moral persuasion and regulation, with a system of incentives and disincentives, (i.e. money), people in a variety of social and economic organizations will be able to achieve many of the tasks required for effectively reducing our emissions to zero.
More agreeable perhaps to some of the critics of Capitalism than others, an absolute necessity in effective climate action is the subordination of the interests of large corporations and the very wealthy, to the overarching public purpose of constructing an ample - and equitable non-carbon energy basis for human civilization - going forward. Read more …
To achieve this, governments must free themselves of the political domination of corporations, vested interests and the plutocrats, oligarchs – the vested interests - that now have inordinate influence over our representatives in our common wealth government and our Parliament and their decision-making. Government and our common wealth Parliament can no longer be run primarily for the benefit of a few super – wealthy or a range of vested interests.
Contrary, however, to standard progressive discourse, there are necessarily legitimate and transparent channels of influence and lobbying, where corporations producing real goods and services must explain and ask for the defence of the necessary real and financial conditions they require to function and serve the public. The current inordinate influence of the moneyed classes and corporations cannot become its complete opposite. That would manifest as no influence - or information feedback into public policy for organizations - producing valuable goods, services and tools.
Effective climate action will involve restructuring our common wealth tax system to induce the private sector to cut emissions and produce goods and services of value in a net-zero carbon emissions society, while regulating the increase in demand caused by the injection of large amounts of money by government investment. In addition, it is not acceptable to artificially construct an underclass of people, which ignores basic tenets of humanity as well as wasting the productive potential of an increasingly inequitable and unjust society. This is a key public policy development focus of the RepresentUs Movement into the future.
Such a progress orientated restructuring of the tax system should encourage housing and settlement patterns and construction that are both climate stabilizing and climate resistant. Some of the latter is dependent on changes in how states and local governments tax. A carbon tax is an essential part of this restructuring, though it is not the sole support of carbon policy, as some its advocates maintain.
The extremes of wealth and poverty in our current society will be reduced by both increased incomes for ordinary people and by higher levels of taxation on very high incomes. A financial transactions and dividend tax - and strict regulation of private finance - will diminish the Ponzi financial economy from which many of the current plutocracy and vested interests have gained their undue financial advantages. Disparities of wealth will continue to exist along with an expanded public sphere and, at least in dollar terms, expanded, public sector. Those who deliver real value to others and society at large and continue to do so, may gain appreciable material and monetary benefits.
These opportunities for enrichment will be offered within a context of a dignified “floor” of income and dignified social services, below which no one is allowed to sink.
A more community-oriented way of life is inevitable for most people in the context of effective climate action, but at the same time, the enforced collectivization of basic personal property should be rejected. The modus operandi of Communist dictatorships of the mid-20th Century, will be shunned as cruel, anti-democratic, and economically inefficient.
While the Australian government should be among the leaders of constructing an international framework to cut carbon emissions radically, negotiating such a framework should not become the occasion for delay of unilateral actions on the part of our common wealth government - or any other government in reducing their emissions beyond minimums - required by international agreements. The Australian government should not hesitate to impose a stringent, ascending carbon tax on domestic emissions and a corresponding carbon tariff on imports, as their embedded emissions are estimated, along with the presence of any carbon taxes in their land of origin.
Some allowance should be made for the historical responsibility of the highly developed countries in supercharging the atmosphere with heating potential, but carbon tariffs should also encourage less-developed countries to reduce their emissions, however small their historical responsibility for emissions.
A climate framework that attempts to completely adjudicate past wrongs in the area of emissions has in the immediate past and is bound in the future to lead to corruption and failure.
Raise the national minimum wage to $25 and provide a publicly-funded guaranteed job at that wage for all of those who are seeking work. Publicly funded jobs will be in sectors and job categories where social need is great and the private sector cannot profitably offer services and therefore employment. Within the climate action program, jobs in the job guarantee program will focus on sectors not addressed by targeted climate mitigation policies.
The job guarantee program will enable employees in that program to attend, part-time, job skills retraining programs offering training in skills in current demand from the private and public sectors.
Mandatory Police Body Cameras with joint civilian-judicial review of raw police body-camera footage in cases of alleged police brutality and discriminatory policing.
This draft bill is proposed for immediate implementation within the current Australian banking structures and institutions. It mandates the separation of normal retail commercial banking activities involving the holding of deposits, from wholesale and investment banking. It also proposes to provide strict accountability and Parliamentary oversight of the activities of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) as the banking regulator, which since its establishment in 1998 has not only overseen, but actually fostered the growth of Australia’s present, speculative, crime-ridden financial system.
This proposed Act will include:
Electricity as an energy carrier does not emit greenhouse or other gases at the point of use and can be generated from non-carbon - emitting energy sources. Electric circuits are some of the most efficient means of transporting and converting energy to do useful work, usually losing anywhere from three to fifteen percent of the initial energy input depending on the type of circuit.
All electrical utilities, both privately and publicly owned, as well as state or territory utility regulators will be required to put into place policies and incentives to expand the use of resources in the loading order as stated below. They will also be required to reduce and extinguish the use of those in the extinction order as stated below in coordination with measures taken by the federal, state, territory and local governments to achieve these ends.
The National Loading Order will be from highest to lowest priority will be:
The National Extinction Order for Primary Energy Resources from highest to lowest will be:
It will be a mandate of the Department of Environment & Energy to propose specific measures for local and regional electrical utilities and grid operators to meet the requirement of eliminating the use of fossil resources in electricity generation and maintain electricity supply.
National Rank Order of Transport Facilities Act will be established to guide federal spending and regulatory activity to cut emissions and negative social impacts from transportation and transportation infrastructure.
An Australian Renewable Energy Transmission Authority will be established to enable equal access to renewable energy electricity generation throughout Australia, enabling generation to be matched as closely as possible to the time of power usage. The ARETA will build a renewable energy super grid that spans Australia to enable energy demand to be served directly by renewable energy flow, reducing the need for still scarce energy storage. This grid will be outfitted with state of the art load balancing and energy dispatch technologies to enable intelligent shunting of renewable energy where it is needed.
The mandate of the ARETA will be to provide supplies of renewable power so all regions of the Australia can reduce emissions from energy production at similar rates, whatever the degree and type of naturally - occurring renewable energy they possess. ARETA energy will be stored as pumped hydroelectric storage or as electrolytic hydrogen if there is excess power.
This act will provide for the finance of the building of renewable generation and a create a pool of funds from all electric utility rate payers to enable secure, 10-12% performance-based profit for 15 years, which will become the basis of the creditworthiness of each project.
This reliable projected cash flow will enable project initiators to secure bank loans to finance the project. All utility regulating bodies must provide a cost-based feed-in-tariff for all renewable energy resources in their service area, enabling project owner’s cost recovery plus a profit on the installation of a well-designed, well-positioned and well-oriented renewable energy generator and tie-in of renewable energy resources to the grid or to metered load sources “behind the meter” on the facility. Energy generated locally will have priority over energy imported via the ARETA, requiring coordination between local grid operators and the ARETA operators.
For installations of electrical energy storage up to 1000 kWh in total capacity attached directly to a renewable energy generator, the government will grant a refundable tax credit in the amount of $125/kWh installed. Tax credit amount will decrease over time to encourage production of less expensive batteries.
The federal government will buy out long-term contracts of increasingly unnecessary fossil generation given the establishment of a national loading order and national extinction order as well as increase in renewable resources on the grid. Utilities will incur no financial penalties for possessing legacy contracts which they are willing to discard in favour of settlements with the government.
The federal government will provide capital funding and operational support for routine local and middle distance passenger travel on high traffic arterials and urban highways a frequent battery-electric bus system with buses capable of accommodating passengers, light freight and bicycles.
The federal government will buy out existing diesel bus fleets from private operators and public transit agencies offering favourable financing on battery-electric alternatives. The government will create or set up financing rules for equipment acquisition that favours battery electric buses that have a solar-photovoltaic “skin” on them to generate 5-10% of energy plus emergency power as well as a Wi-Fi telecommunications system for passenger use.
In exchange for funding, the federal government will mandate that bus operations companies source their power from new renewable energy generation, offering a facility for matching renewable power plant developers and public transit agencies/bus operations companies. With the cooperation of local public transit agencies and private bus system operators, the Federal government will mandate high frequencies of service to encourage switching to renewably-powered electric public transit for routine trips along predictable routes, including a rural “post bus” system.
Spend $50 Billion over five years to provide Australians with access to multiple modes of transportation beyond personal cars and light trucks, including active transportation (biking and walking). Provide $5 billion over 5 years to municipalities and local councils to either build separated bike infrastructure or converting where necessary traffic patterns to enable sharing of streets or alternatively to build shared streets with traffic calming where all participants can share a common right of way. Provide an additional $2.5 billion to build sidewalks and bike and pedestrian overpasses over intersections, highways and arterials that divide areas of settlement with a density greater than 800 inhabitants per square mile. Spend $2.5 billion dollars to fund dedicated bus lanes on limited access highways and arterials with access at bus stops to bike and pedestrians, and local transportation. Make federal funding for roads contingent upon design by relevant state and territory departments of multi-modal roadways and efficient, design utilization of these funds by municipalities.
Entities that own fossil fuel extraction, refining or transport assets will within 6 months of passage of the bill submit to the Department of Environment & Energy a 15 year or less plan to scale down and deconstruct those assets they own that have no use in a net zero carbon emitting society.
They will also present a black field and brown field remediation plan for areas which the operations of their facilities have made toxic or infertile to human beings or species native to that area. They will also present a finance plan for the deconstruction and remediation plan.
The Department of Environment & Energy will monitor at quarterly intervals the progress of the legal owners of fossil fuel extraction, refining and transport facilities in implementing their agreed upon liquidation plan. Owners of these facilities will be held legally responsible including civil and criminal penalties for not complying with the timeline to liquidate their assets and remediate the damages to adjacent properties and jurisdictions to their facilities and areas of operation.
Having efficient housing is fundamental to having communities that are sustainable in a rapidly changing world. The following points highlight what is necessary to achieve this objective
Provide local governments with an annual grant of $5,000 per student, (for educational grants over ten years), for converting local government revenue collection from property taxes to land value taxes, thus encouraging infill development and eliminating local tax penalties for property owners for energy efficiency and other property improvements.
In a combined program of the Australian Department of Agriculture & Water Resources and the Australian Department of Environment & Energy, the agricultural supply industry will receive research grants to develop and offer as of 2030, farm implements that use only electricity as their energy input. As of 2035, the sale of non-plug-in, liquid fuel only farm machinery will be banned.
Grant forest-owners a fully-refundable tax credit for increases in forest biomass at $2.00 per additional tonne/year. Exempted are biomass losses from control-burn and natural-burn forest fires.
All state and territory railway will be purchased by the common wealth government and the rails will be operated as a publicly-owned utility. Where geographically feasible, single track routes will be turned into multi-track with an eye to minimizing the environmental and social displacement involved. Multi-tracking the railways will enable increased freight traffic and combining passenger and freight traffic.
The Australian government will fund the building of a high speed rail system by rail including several stops (Darwin – Brisbane - Sydney - Adelaide - Perth). A thorough study of maglev technology by the Department of Environment & Energy and Department of Science & Technology will make the final determination of propulsion and rail types, whether conventional high speed rail or magnetic levitation. The rail agency will procure power via long-term contracts with renewable energy projects. The common wealth government will invest $200 Billion to complete this major infrastructure project before 2035.
As a means of driving consumer and business choice a national $80/metric tonne carbon dioxide equivalent carbon tax will be applied to all uses of fossil fuels considered non-essential to the climate mitigation effort. The tax will ascend by $10/tonne every year. Mission-critical projects will be taxed starting at $10/tonne each year ascending likewise at $10/tonne/year to encourage rational carbon accounting and lower embedded carbon in infrastructure projects. Tariffs harmonized with the carbon tax will be imposed on imports where no similar carbon tax is imposed on domestic production in the country of origin (tariffs will “fill in” where foreign carbon tax programs are inadequate). If states decide to impose carbon taxes, federal carbon taxes will be harmonized to produce at least the current national carbon price level.
Architects, Engineers, Designers, Builders, Construction Workers, Project Developers, and Consumers will be offered training and information in climate stabilizing design, including (Energy Efficient) passive house architecture, construction techniques and multi-modal street/traffic design.
Offer buyers a stable means to save for retirement by selling tax-free inflation - protected federal government bonds that offer a 3% annual yield above inflation. Such bonds are offered, as well, to reduce in the short and medium term inflation from the additional spending required to stabilize the climate.
To reduce or eliminate excessive warming from existing emissions the Environmental Protection Agency will assess the risks associated with so-called “geo-engineering” techniques and create a rank order of tools to reduce excessive warming with corresponding scientific bodies in other countries. International cooperation will be sought in deciding the application of tools that may have negative impacts on other sovereign nations. Those methods that impact global weather patterns will be proposed to the United Nations for review.
The oncoming changes to the climate and sea levels will require over the next several decades ongoing work in the area of sea barrier erection, wildfire prevention, and efforts to maintain the productivity of agriculture. Military personnel will be redeployed from unnecessary foreign entanglements to work under the supervision of the Royal Australian Engineers to erect seawalls and assist National Guard with emergency response to disasters as needed. Military personnel will be supplemented by Job Guarantee program employees in helping Australia and other nations respond to the threats associated with a warming world.
© Michael Hoexter