Read the signs on COP26, says Greens MLA Jo Clay

Jo Clay MLA 14 November 2021 40
Jo Clay

Greens MLA Jo Clay says the signs on climate change are clear. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Why does the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference matter to Canberra? Because my daughter can read the signs.

Two years ago, I was at School Strike 4 Climate in Glebe Park with my five-year-old. She was fascinated with handmade artworks from thousands of kids, but she couldn’t read the words. I told her the gist but I skipped the scary parts.

Some of those signs were funny:

“Why go to school if you don’t listen to the educated?”

“If you act like children, we’ll act like adults.”

“I’ve seen smarter Cabinets at Ikea.”

Some were chilling.

“You’ll die of old age. We’ll die of climate change.”

But it was a good day. We marched with 15,000 people, led by students.

They were fierce. They were strong. They were right.

We adults knew we’d finally get through to the leaders. They could ignore us but they could never ignore these children.

A year ago, I was back at School Strike 4 Climate. I didn’t take my daughter this time. By design, there weren’t many people there as it was at Parliament House in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak. Not a good time to gather.

The signs were back, but they’d changed. They weren’t funny or chilling. They were ash.

“Flaming hell, fund our future not gas.”

“Stop burning our future.”

“Our mother is burning.”

Between 2019 and 2020, nothing had changed in federal climate policy, but everything was different. We knew what inaction meant as 2020 showed us: fire, smoke and destruction. This is the world we are leaving our children.

I’m an ACT Member of the Legislative Assembly as well as being a mother. Leaders everywhere are calling for panic. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it’s a ‘code red’. Prince Charles calls COP26 our ‘last chance saloon’. Greta Thunberg, that child who leads us all, tells us to act as if our house is on fire.

World leaders use words such as crisis, catastrophe and extinction as if these are a perfectly normal way to talk. And yet our federal politicians still won’t act. The best we get is a vague pledge to do something, maybe, in a few decades.

Is real climate action too hard?

No, it’s not. Big cuts are easy to make. I know because I’ve done it.

I started a climate project in 2017. Frustrated by the Federal Government’s tiny targets and greenwashed programs, I set out to do better. I decided to slash my carbon footprint, one week at a time. I had no idea what I was doing – I had no idea if it was even possible – but guess what, I cut 73 per cent from my carbon footprint in three years.

The ACT Government has done it, too. ACT climate policy has been based on taking real climate action for a decade. We’ve cut 60 per cent during the past nine years.

Meanwhile, our Federal Government has made no cuts.


According to their own inventory, the only time emissions went down was while the Greens-negotiated carbon price was in place. Since the Liberals and Nationals fought so hard to repeal it, emissions have been on the rise.

I don’t know what will come out of COP26, nor do I know what 2022 will bring. But I don’t trust the federal politicians who are in charge now to do anything other than what they’ve done since they took power in 2013: worse than nothing.

We need a new mob who will treat the climate crisis with the same seriousness and urgency as COVID-19.

This is our code red and last chance saloon to act like our house is on fire and avert crisis, catastrophe and extinction.

My daughter will soon be eight years old. She knows what we’re doing to this world. She can read the signs. Why can’t our federal leaders?

Jo Clay is the ACT Greens MLA for Ginninderra.

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40 Responses to Read the signs on COP26, says Greens MLA Jo Clay
Harrison Busche Harrison Busche 5:57 pm 15 Nov 21

Hi Jo, I’ve got nothing against the environment, but why do you do something more worthwhile for Canberrans like reducing the staggering number of people living below the poverty line. I’m sure families and individuals will also be more conscious about reducing their footprint if they weren’t so worried about feeding themselves and keeping a roof over their head.

The most socially progressive government is a disgrace and the neglect to its constituents astounds.

Nathan Burraston Nathan Burraston 5:44 pm 15 Nov 21

At the time of the ACT Election 30,000 Canberrans including nearly 8,000 Children lived in Poverty.

We have 6 gold medallist virtue signallers elected on a promise of 'a home for all'.

Today, 38,000 Canberrans including 9,000 children live in poverty.

Any headline to deflect from their failings it seems...

Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 4:54 pm 15 Nov 21

The MLA should concern her self with the issues of her electorate not internationall problems. E.g. put solar panels/wind on the roofs of public buildings and change out (as they die) led lighting and so on. Or EV service training in to CIT so we can have local mechanics service them instead of driving all the way to Sydney.

    Nataša Živkova Nataša Živkova 10:37 am 16 Nov 21

    Daniel Duncan what makes you think she isn’t working hard on the concerns of her electorate and constituents?

    Nataša Živkova Nataša Živkova 10:38 am 16 Nov 21

    Daniel Duncan I’m sure if you put forward these ideas to her in an approachable way she would be more than happy to investigate its feasibility

    Nataša Živkova Nataša Živkova 12:26 pm 16 Nov 21

    Daniel Duncan did you even check your facts? She asked about CIT 3 weeks ago. Page 22 and 23 of this:

Futureproof Futureproof 4:23 pm 15 Nov 21

When the Greens pollies give up the Chairman’s lounge at the QANTAS club, I may listen to their drivel

Scott Anthony Scott Anthony 4:06 pm 15 Nov 21

You can’t talk to these ‘green’ clowns…’Where is the Federal Governments commitment’..?

Australia has one of the worlds largest take-ups of roof top Solar thanks to Federal government subsidies, how about Snowy 2.0..? ring any bells…? What about the 250 million for Ev charging stations, and about 100 other things…

Sadly the Greens just whinge and whinge and whinge in their never ending politicing…

Linda Johnston Linda Johnston 3:47 pm 15 Nov 21

Federal Government's commitment? They had to be dragged kicking and screaming to net zero by 2050 and to do that they had to include a lot of imaginary technology that they have not committed to research or develop.

Aisha Bottrill Aisha Bottrill 3:40 pm 15 Nov 21

Well said Jo Clay MLA - Member for Ginninderra 👏🏼👏🏼 Time for the federal government to follow in ACT footsteps before it’s too late 💚

chewy14 chewy14 3:19 pm 15 Nov 21

Perhaps the MLA should be looking closer to home for who to blame when it was her own party that scuppered Rudd’s CPRS that would have led to real change in our emissions profile.

Without the Greens obstinance we would be significantly further along the path to net zero emissions.

I also don’t know what data she is looking at to claim that emissions are going up when they have been steady for a number of years before recent drops in both overall and per capita amounts that are continuing.

And anyone who says that large cuts to our overall emissions profile is “easy to make” is completely ignorant of the real world costs of drastic action. You can argue that it’s worth it to manage the worst effects of climate change but don’t pretend those costs don’t exist.

Perhaps the MLA should stay out of areas outside of her control and do her own job? You know, the one she’s being paid by ACT taxpayers for?

    waxy boy waxy boy 4:53 pm 15 Nov 21

    Not sure you could hit the nail on the head more firmly

    kenbehrens kenbehrens 7:05 pm 15 Nov 21

    Chewy 14,
    I was going to raise the same act of stupidity. As I recall it, Rudd’s legislation didn’t go far enough, so the Greens refused to support it.

    That’s the problem with the ideologically driven. Sometimes it makes an awful lot of sense to accept next best rather than to have a dummy spit and walk away with nothing.

    The Greens are only in position of influence in the ACT because historically, our city is left leaning and our unique multiple member electorates and proportional representation.

    phydeaux phydeaux 10:01 am 17 Nov 21

    Just for the record, our electoral system is not unique, and the multi-member proportional aspect is very common. It (electoral systems like ours in the ACT, Ireland, etc) is apparently a highly regarded electoral system where these things are studied.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:57 am 17 Nov 21

    Yes that’s right it’s not unique.

    But I personally do think there’s issues with the way our electorates have been set up mainly to benefit the major parties, with little chance of true independents or smaller parties getting in.

    It would have been much better for Canberra as a whole if there were more members in fewer electorates.

    phydeaux phydeaux 11:47 am 17 Nov 21

    Last I read about it chewy, seven was considered about the ideal. Anyway, off topic. Sorry.

nobody nobody 2:00 pm 15 Nov 21

Hold on a minute Jo, while I agree we need to get our emissions down ASAP, why do the Greens still oppose nuclear power, the proven technology providing reliable emissions free power since 1954. Greens want us the switch from gas to electric, switch from petrol to electric, on top of all the electricity we already use, and turn off the coal generators.

According to the IAEA, nuclear provides about 30% of the world’s low carbon electricity, and avoids about 2 Gt of CO2 emissions per year, and they estimate nuclear avoided about 74 Gt of CO2 emissions from the period 1971-2018. If the world is going to reach net-zero by 2050, and keep the lights on, the world needs nuclear, yet the Greens say no.

Spiral Spiral 11:16 am 15 Nov 21

It is completely ridiculous that Chine gets an easier ride because it is considered a “Developing Nation”.

It is the world’s biggest emitter and has long been forecast to become the world’s largest economy (if it isn’t already).

Any agreement that doesn’t hold China to as strict limits as “Developed countries” is not worth signing.

In my opinion, as soon as any nation develops nuclear weapons (yes looking at you too India and Pakistan) they should no longer get any concessions for being a “Developing” one. If you can afford to spend billions or trillions of dollars on nuclear weapons, your problem isn’t that you can’t afford your infrastructure. The problem is your priorities.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 1:55 pm 15 Nov 21

    To be fair, China made the biggest promise of all but because it didn’t fit the narrative and blubbering the MSM failed to report it:

    Australia should have done the same thing.

    Note the situation with coal fired power stations in China and Australia only has 24!

    Spiral Spiral 2:43 pm 15 Nov 21

    hmmm. Are there any Greens representatives around?

    Which is worse? Coal or Nuclear?
    I would think coal, but I wonder what they think.

    Do they applaud China for increasing their nuclear power generation? If so would they applaud Australia for following the same path?

    Or are they (presumably very quietly) criticizing China for going this route?

    Spiral Spiral 4:14 pm 15 Nov 21

    If that link is accurate, China planing on building 245 coal power stations over the next 10 years, which averages to 24.5 each year.

    And Australia currently has 24 coal power stations.

    So China is planning on building the same number of coal power stations each year as Australia has in total!

    How can anyone who believes in human driven Climate Change be anything but horrified at that! Surely that deserves the strongest of criticisms!

    Of course not all power stations are equal. There are big ones and little ones. Some use cleaner technology and if my understanding is correct, the quality of the coal can make a significant difference. So my comparison is undoubtedly simplistic and contains errors, but is still it seems that China is the key to curbing climate change.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:26 pm 15 Nov 21

    Who are the people who are manipulating our children with this doomsday dialogue?

    There is nothing more vile than trading on the hopes and fears of children.

    There must be a hidden agenda somewhere – Marxism?

    chewy14 chewy14 7:07 pm 15 Nov 21

    Bill Stefaniak isn’t really an authoritative figure on energy policy, although it’s obvious why Capital Retro has once again jumped at a link he thinks supports his pre determined position. The confirmation bias is extremely strong with this one.

    Whilst China is planning on building more coal fired plants, this may not necessarily increase their emissions profiles for a number of reasons.

    Due to their political framework, these types of projects can often be approved in China as a form of infrastructure stimulus despite not actually being required from a grid perspective. The utilisation of China’s existing Coal plants has been dropping in recent years because of overinvestment in the space. Because they don’t typically face the profit motives of countries like Australia, a lot of these plants are losing money because of it.

    China also has significant amounts of far dirtier direct coal and fossil fuel burning for things like building heating. The new coal plants assist in replacing these dirtier emissions when the grid expands.

    As well as the fact that older coal plants will be decommissioned over time.

    As for nuclear, it makes sense why China would look towards more plants. As an authoritarian state, they face no issues with approvals or the financing/economics of such plants. The people don’t get a say and they don’t have to pay for themselves.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:20 am 16 Nov 21

    Is there anything you are not a self-appointed expert on, chewy?

    chewy14 chewy14 9:28 am 16 Nov 21

    Capital Retro,
    I’m not self appointed.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:53 am 17 Nov 21

    But still an expert?

    Spiral Spiral 8:15 pm 16 Nov 21

    China isn’t the only nation building nuclear power plants. It appears there are currently 19 nations constructing them including India, South Korea, Japan, the UK, the USA, France and Finland.

    Are they wrong?

    chewy14 chewy14 10:37 pm 16 Nov 21

    Even under the extremely optimistic (and not objective) view of the international atomic energy agency, the proportion of nuclear power in the generation mix will continue to fall across the globe

    Older plants are being decommissioned and not replaced.

    And in reality, the proportion of nuclear will actually drop faster than they’ve predicted because most of the plants being planned or investigated will never actually go ahead due to cost and other constraints.

    Nuclear still has a place in certain situations but will become more niche as time goes on. It’s simply too expensive and has too many obvious drawbacks.

    Spiral Spiral 8:19 am 17 Nov 21

    Oh, you mean like Bangladesh which currently doesn’t have nuclear power but is getting into it?

    Or Turkey which is in the same boat?

    Of Finland which is looking at doubling their nuclear capacity to help replace coal?

    Or Slovakia which has confirmed its commitment to nuclear power and building more plants?

    Isn’t it strange that we keep on hearing that coal and nuclear plants have no future because they are so expensive, yet conservation activists turn a blind to many nations building them, using the excuse that it is too expensive for those countries to be held to the same renewables standards as they want us held to.

    Perhaps someone should tell those countries that their coal and nuclear are more expensive than renewables. That would help the environment and save those nations a heap of money.

    chewy14 chewy14 11:05 am 17 Nov 21

    You’re talking about a couple of new plants in mostly smaller countries that may or may not get built.

    It’s a blip in the ocean of global energy demand.

    As I said, nuclear will continue to have a niche market, mostly in countries where they don’t have the space for widescale renewable energy or there are other specific constraints and benefits that make nuclear preferable.

    The fact that these plants may happen doesn’t negate the fact that they are now generally more expensive and only getting worse.

    You only need to look at the IAEA’s own figures to see that the global proportion of nuclear power is dropping.

    Strange that every time they update their optimistic future position on nuclear power the number of plants that are being planned or investigated keeps dropping as well as those that are in construction isn’t it?

    Individual countries and plants are irrelevant, the overall global position is what matters.

    jwinston jwinston 2:41 pm 17 Nov 21

    Surely we’d also a “blip in the ocean of global energy demand”?

    chewy14 chewy14 2:55 pm 17 Nov 21

    I’m not sure how that matters in relation to whether Nuclear power is a technology we should pursue or how it will factor into the overall worldwide energy generation mix in the future.

    jwinston jwinston 4:49 pm 17 Nov 21

    I was just quoting you Chewy.

    Anyway, I think Australia should build some nuclear power plants to secure our electrical power future as the benefits of nuclear outweigh the perceived benefits and hypocrisy of wind and solar.

    chewy14 chewy14 6:04 pm 17 Nov 21

    Yes quoting me in the fact that if a few other countries build new nuclear plants it doesn’t make nuclear power any more viable on a global scale or likely to grow in the proportion of overall global generation.

    If Australia did the same it would also be a blip in the ocean of global energy demand.

    But the chances of seeing a nuclear plant in Australia is basically zero because they are far more expensive than the renewable alternatives and there’s almost zero chance of being able to site and get approval to construct one here.

    kenbehrens kenbehrens 7:15 pm 15 Nov 21

    And that’s the problem isn’t it?
    It’s easy for the Greens to bag out on ScoMo for not doing enough but where is their criticism of China and India?

    It’s much easier to get on the news and on social media by organising protests by school kids.

    Spiral Spiral 10:19 am 16 Nov 21

    The Extinction Rebellion people claim to be very dedicated.

    Perhaps their next stunt could be to glue their hands to the gate of the Chinese Embassy or to its driveway.

    Or perhaps the climate crises isn’t serious enough for them to do something that brave.

    JS9 JS9 9:54 am 17 Nov 21

    Seriously this conversation is just like it was last time.

    Nuclear simply does not stack up on a cost-effectiveness or economics basis in Australia.

    Unless you are advocating for a government takeover of the energy sector with huge subsidies (we do know how much some on here love subsidies, especially hidden ones… :P) then that will be the key driver of decision making for future energy sources in this country.

    We needed a nuclear industry 30 years ago if we were going to go down that route. It’s a folly to suggest it will somehow magically stack up now in this country. For other countries with different forces at play, it may. But for Australia – it wont.

    By the time we got anywhere near having a nuclear plant online here, the difference in levelised cost will substantially larger then the huge gap that already exists now.

    phydeaux phydeaux 10:03 am 17 Nov 21

    If ER were to do that, it would be an AFP problem to fix while the Chinese staff ignored it to sip tea. That is, neither brave nor useful; like your comment.

    phydeaux phydeaux 11:49 am 17 Nov 21

    I neglected to make clear my last comment was a response to Spiral, not JS9.

    Spiral Spiral 1:31 pm 19 Nov 21

    A polite way of saying they aren’t brave enough. Sure, inconvenience a large number of people who have a certain level of support for your cause, but despise your actions.

    But don’t be brave enough to go head to head with the worst offenders!

    Hit the defenseless but hide from the strong. Typical bully behaviour.

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