In response to the economic impacts of the outbreak of the Coronavirus/ Covid-19, state and federal governments are now announcing rolling, large-scale stimulus packages to keep the economy afloat. These already total billions of dollars and are likely to be ongoing.
This is both a threat and an opportunity for the future of the economy, the climate and ecosystems at a time of overlapping crises.
Will we see the Morrison government attempt to force through subsidies for new coal mines and fossil fuel generators, bailouts of large corporations and guarantees for executive pay while regular people struggle to pay rent and emissions continue to rise?
Or will we take this opportunity to transform the economic system to get the climate crisis under control, and ensure the safety and health of people? We cannot return to business as usual.
Both the Covid-19 outbreak and the recent bushfire disaster have confirmed that society and the economy depend first and foremost on the health, wellbeing and safety of the community and nature. Many regional communties are trying to rebuild their lives in the fallout of the bushfires while now responding to Covid-19.
Free market capitalism cannot solve these immediate and long-term threats and has failed both people and the planet. We must look instead to systemic and transformative solutions.
Our goal must be to use the massive investment of public funds to start to position our economy to be fit for purpose for the reality of climate change. Simply locking us further into ‘business as usual’ will only put off the changes we need to make, or lock us into bad investments that make the climate crisis worse.
This is why we have launched our blueprint for to make acting on the climate crisis a key pillar of responding to Covid-19.
While we must focus on the immediate health and economic threats posed by the COVID-19 outbreak we need to remember we are already in the middle of a unplanned transition in our economy due to the forces of globalisation and technological changes to the energy system. Because it is unplanned, it is unjust. At the national level, there is wage stagnation and an industrial relations system which works against the interests of workers. Now hundreds of thousands of Australians have lost their incomes. Many aging coal-fired power stations are nearing the end of their lives and the native forests sector is clearly unsustainable and on the verge of collapse. The economy is undergoing a market-driven transformation and many of these changes are bad for blue collar workers, for instance, as was shown by the closure of the Australian car industry.
Based on our principles of justice, solidarity, resilience and care and action, we have set out our initial view of what a short-term economic rescue package should include to act on climate change while protecting people whose livelihoods are being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Covid-19 stimulus packages focussed on climate must aim to secure good jobs for people. We propose a series of initiatives that will provide immediate employment in workplaces that can be managed to keep the risk of infection low (ie work that can be done remotely, and work that will occur outdoors, or in small groups, etc).
These are set out across multiple sectors or themes, covering energy, cities and transport, agriculture, waste, rivers, forests and the natural world, waste, housing and welfare,
We have focused largely on the state of Victoria, as well as measures that can be taken by the federal government. We also propose some more systemic changes that would steer our economy to a more sustainable footing.
Feedback: This document is an initial blueprint setting out key ideas for a response to the Covid-19 crisis addressing systemic issues in society and the economy while acting on climate change. We are interested to hear feedback from members and allies and additional ideas and solutions to build a more sustainable society and economy as we all grapple with the reality of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Contact: Pat Simons, [email protected]
Version #2. March 2020.
Friends of the Earth Melbourne