Adam Bandt on Climate Change - Getting to Zero Impact

Adam Bandt on Climate Change - Getting to Zero Impact

Check out the full podcast recording here.



people, adani, coal, australia, climate change, government, big, renewables, coal mines, coal power stations, bit, campaign, stop, impact, talking, places, communities, planet, job, transition


Max Middleweek, Adam Bandt


Max Middleweek 00:00

Hey everyone, it is Max middleweek the founder of Zero Impact. But we know the best from that company where we recycle waste coffee grounds into clean energy, but we have a bit of a passion project on the side that me and my team have put together, which talks to really passionate, knowledgeable people in this space that are getting us to a Zero Impact future. And we deem Zero Impact as having no impact on the environment that impacts on the ecosystem and impact to climate change. And of course, we'll be revealing updates about Zero Impact so stay tuned. But I'm really excited to have you listening with us and I hope you enjoy our first episode.

Max Middleweek 00:48

What's so bad about climate change?

Adam Bandt 00:51

Well it'll destroy our way of life as we know it.

Max Middleweek 00:55

I'm sitting down to chat with Adam Bandt who is the Deputy Leader of the Green Party in Australia. It's a really passionate, insightful and revealing conversation we have about the dangers of climate change and what choices we face going forward.

Adam Bandt 01:16

People understand climate change is real and apart from a few outliers, sadly, some of whom run our country, but most people accept that the science is right and the climate change is happening. And I think people are starting to understand that it's happening now. It's not just something will happen in the future, but it's happening now we're saying we decided we'd set our hardest summit ever people have seen Tasmania, parts of it on fire, and New South Wales burning wall and parts of Queensland are flooding and think fish washing out dead in our rivers. I think the penny is dropping for many, many people that this is something that is hurting us now. But perhaps what people don't quite realizes that if we don't get it under control within about a decade or so, according to the world scientists, what we're potentially looking at potentially as early as 2030. Or certainly, definitely by the middle of the century, according to their predictions. We could be looking at going to Christmas holidays every second year, and being presuming that there'll be a bushfire in Victoria or that they'll be another heatwave that will take people's lives and even at the extreme end, the projections, that at the moment, even though we've signed up to limit global warming to two degrees, and that we're hitting closer to four degrees rather than two degrees, some people at scientists and made the point that on our current predictions of four degrees which we could heat by the end of the century, the carrying capacity of the planet is only a billion people at that point because agriculture is so smashed and some somebody parts of the planet becoming uninhabitable.

Adam Bandt 03:01

Our water resources are affected. So you're talking about getting down from where we are now down to a billion people. Now, that is a massive, massive shock and catastrophe by anyone's right. And, yeah, it sounds a pretty scary speech, especially in the think of our children and the next generation after them.

Max Middleweek 03:23

What drives your passion and your interest in fighting this issue?

Adam Bandt 03:28

I think that government is one of the few places that can turn the ship around in time that I've worked. Before coming into this job as a MP, I worked as a barrister and a lawyer and a solicitor for about 12 years and my commitment to social justice was representing a lot of low paid workers and especially people we talked about sweatshop labour. We've got sweatshops here in Melbourne, they just happen in individual women flat and houses in Richmond and Springvale and places like that.

Adam Bandt 03:59

My job was taking big major clothing corporations that you would have heard of and seen their ads. My job was to take them to court and say. Look, you know, not upholding the minimum standards to these people. And I was very happy with that as my commitment to social justice for a while until I heard about climate change. And I at the time thought, Oh, well, it's such a significant thing. I'm sure that the government's got it under control with it. And it was then sort of as it started to dawn on me the seriousness of it, and also the fact that we were completely ignoring it. That's when I quit my job and started running in elections. So for me, I guess the twin things that drive me is one is wanting to make sure that we've got a safe climate and clean air and clean water for everyone. And the second is to make sure that Australia remains an equal place and that we don't have those be gaps between big corporations on one hand and people earning $3 or $4 an hour sewing in their own sheds on the other and they're the things that really drive me.

Max Middleweek 05:03

Yeah, amazing. I think there seems to be a big disconnect, as, as you're saying between what people are, you know, share your view as well. But there seems to be a big disconnect across Australian politics across both, you know, the government at the moment, but both sides of the house. Why do you think there's such division? And why is

it so dysfunctional in terms of Australia's addressing climate change? Especially when Australia's so far behind many other Western countries?

Adam Bandt 05:31

Yeah, it's a good question. And I think the answer is, in many ways, it's unique to Australia is context. And although probably we got a lot of similarities with US, and that is that there's some very big corporations that are making a lot of money out of a business model that's premise on wrecking the planet and causing climate change I, they clean up coal or oil or gas, and they're filling it and they're building it themselves, or they're selling it to someone else to burn and it's making enormous amounts of money and in a political system that we've got where corporations can effectively make unlimited donations to political parties and wield huge political clout, they're basically go to the others and they say, look, we'll donate to your campaigns but if you cross us them or donate to your opponent and we'll go and run a campaign to take you out of your seat, and I saw that up close in another context when in the minority parliament in 2010, when we're in a hung parliament, and we're trying to get action on the pokies and I still remember someone from senior from the Labor Party coming and sitting next to me and saying, Oh, well look, you know, you can talk about taking action on the parties as much as you like, but the club industry have been in my office and they said this half a dozen people in marginal seats that will run a campaign against if we do anything, so I'm sorry, but we're not gonna do anything. Like it's really as blatant as that in Canberra, and I think that goes a long way to explaining why the coal industry in particular has such a stranglehold on politics.

Max Middleweek 07:10

Yeah, and definitely on the subject of coal, which I know you're very passionate about. And I share the same passion as you when you get out of coal as it's becoming rapidly uneconomic to continue firing coal power stations, but we still have a government that is just supporting coal power stations or brown coal in Victoria, and even opening new coal power stations. Is that is that purely the lobbying like the coal in the same way?

Adam Bandt 07:39

Yeah, that's a big that's a big part of it. And also to the be honest, like the kind of go back to where we started the interview with the world scientists telling us last year about how soon we might hit 1.5C degrees, said, look to stop it happening as soon as 2030 so within your in my lifetimes. To stop it happening that quickly, the world needs to be two thirds out of coal by 2030. Now, in a country like Australia, where we've effectively build up our power system to the a series of copper and aluminium lines out to coal mines to make that switch is a significant thing to do. And there are communities and workers in those coal fired power stations and in those coal mines, and we need to do a very big transition. But it needs to be done in an orderly way. So you really it is going to require shaking things up. And what we've seen in Australia is that governments it's often a bit easier to bury their head in the sand and not have the honest conversation with communities about what it would mean to make that transition, even if it's going to involve a bit of disruption and now, it's better that then having a cooked planet basically you having your kids have to pay for it.

Adam Bandt 08:59

We've been going out or I've been going down to coal fired power station communities. And talking about you know, the Greens Plan is to say we need to replace coal fired power stations with renewables. So we've been walking into towns in the Latrobe Valley. And like you were mentioning where this brown coal or in Muswellbrook in New South Wales and Collie in WA and saying, Yeah, look, the greens plan is to close down the coal industries in this town, but he is our plan to replace it with renewables and to bring new industries to the region and make sure everyone has good well paying sustainable jobs. And I think even in those regions, people are starting to get us. But we just need I think a bit more of that courage and honesty from from our leaders

Max Middleweek 09:45

Do you think these communities are they are they well equipped and ready for that big change because it sounds like a big change in the way of doing things. Not only in a in the setup, getting out of coal into renewables but also culturally as well.

Max Middleweek 09:59

I spoke to coal miners before Hazelwood closed and it was a very proud heritage of serving Australia basically. And what do you say to those people that have pioneered the coal industry and now going to lose their jobs and the future is uncertain?

Adam Bandt 10:16

You're right in the we should honour the history and honour what they're doing now and honour what they've done, because they've helped get us to where we are, and they're helping keep the lights on now and these podcasts going and renewables are still stepping in, but they've played an important role.

Adam Bandt 10:33

So it's not about dishonouring those people or leaving those communities behind by any means. And, in fact, one of the reasons that we want to establish a National Authority with a good amount of money to look after these sectors is in a lot of these places with a bit of planning, you can actually get some new renewables or new battery storage or pumps hydro storage in a lot of these areas, and they could continue this role as energy pioneers and energy leaders. So when you think about us when I went to one coal fired town, a town with coal mines, and we've, we've power stations, you know, I said, Look, we had an aha moment a little while ago, which is that pets, our biggest asset is not the call under the ground, but all the transmission lines and the structure above the ground. Why can't we just get some money from the government to tell us whether we can build some renewables so that that feeds into the, into those transmission lines instead? And we'll just flip the switch over from call over to the others and I think with a bit of planning, that's probably what we could do.

Max Middleweek 11:40

Adam raises a really great point here that yes, we seen massive prosperity arise through mining activities in Australia, especially over the past few decades with the mining boom, especially in places like WA. Now a lot of people have been come very wealthy through that. Not only people in the mining industry, but also Australians, generally, you benefit from all the tax revenue and other levies that

arise through mining. So it's, I can see why there is still a hostility to move away from what has been so good to us as a nation, however, actually doesn't need to be as painful as we would think. Because inadvertently, through all the coal mining infrastructure of burning coal is actually there is other infrastructure that's really useful that's leftover. And that's the transmission lines and the grid, and all that kind of cool stuff as well, which was, I thought, just an amazing insight that we often forget about.

Max Middleweek 12:39

I think it's definitely important, because as a country, I think I right in saying that we only burn about a third of coal that we we actually dig up?

Adam Bandt 12:50

It's actually 20%, about 80% of our coal goes overseas and gets burn overseas.

Max Middleweek 12:55

How we going to decouple what has been the biggest rise and prosperity basically in Australian history, strong economy strong growth, how are we going to transition? Are we going to see that repeated again? Or are peoples living standards going to decline as we get away from these mining communities?

Adam Bandt 13:15

Well, I think they'll decline if we don't tackle climate change, and we've now got the Reserve Bank of Australia telling us that and we've got the key financial regulators telling us that and the climate change authority telling us that so you just have to look at the, let's say your analysis is just a strict economic one. You just have to look at the cost to look at how much broccoli went up in the southern states when, as a result of disaster up North there wasn't as much of it to go around or let's look at what it's going to mean for tourism industry when the Great Barrier Reef is bleached. Let's look at what at what it means when bushfire season goes for longer, and the winters are shorter and there's less rainfall, what's that going to

mean for our agriculture? So on the just straight economic indicators, you've now got our key economic institutions in Australia saying look just on at times when are going to start saying declines that we're going to have to counteract if we don't get climate change under control. So I think that the economic debate itself is significantly shifting.

Max Middleweek 14:33

What's the deal was Adani, that's a big coal mining project in Queensland that will have impacts on the [Great Barrier] Reef and Climate Change. How do we stop that?

Adam Bandt 14:47

Yeah, look, it's just crazy and the time when you've just got the the world scientists saying, We need a strategy to get two thirds out of coal by 2030 otherwise dangerous global warming will heat as soon as 2030. You've got on the other hand, governments bending over backwards to open up new coal mines, including the Galilee basin, which is in Queensland is a big area broader than the coal mine but including the Adani coal mine which at the moment the coal is still sitting there under the ground where it should be. There's a proposal from a multinational conglomerate to basically dig it up from company called Adani to dig a lot of it up and export it. And the initial proposal that we're talking about 60 million tonnes a year of coal, to dig up and burn. And to give you an idea about what's in that hole of the Galilee basin. If you dug up all of the coal in the Galilee basin and burnt it, you're basically talking about what the entire European Union puts out in one year. So we're talking that country's worth of pollution sitting there under the ground in Australia, lets leave it there. You've got the Queensland Government bending over backwards giving them free water and giving them all sorts of sweetheart deal so that they can go ahead you got the Liberal Party saying, How can we help let us find ways of supporting you and going out and fast tracking it. And the main wall, every reasonable minded Australian looks on and says this is just crazy. And so there's a growing growing campaign to stop it. And there's going to be a convoy up to Adani and then on to Canberra, coming through Melbourne sometime within the next few weeks as people are heading up there to say look, we're going to put ourselves on the line and stop this thing.

Adam Bandt 16:59

It's going to be led by Bob Brown that convoy, former Greens leader and strong environmental campaigner. And it's a bit like the Franklin dam campaign which back in the 80s. People may remember that there was a rogue state government was going to go ahead. And then the Franklin river and there was a huge campaign and it was just in the lead up to a federal election and the people put the pressure on the then opposition Labor Party and said, Look, you've got to say that if you win government, you're going to stop it and Bob Hawke did, and there was a change of government and Bob Hawke can pass the law and stopped it. And, this is in a sense our generations Franklin campaign, we have to keep these coal in the ground. And you would have seen 50,000 students and others march through the streets of Melbourne on the school climate strike. Just a little while ago, one of their demands was to stop Adani and the eyes of the world are on this and there is a big big push in the lead up to this election to say this has to be an issue that whoever's gonna form government they promised to stop it.

Max Middleweek 18:08

So you believe the policy in government is the main one of the main ways to get out of these kind of bigger like Adani or climate change is that is that the main lever that you would suggest?

Max Middleweek 18:18

Well, and that's even against, as you said before, like unlimited donations, corporate donations to parties, which it just seems a big fight of people power against that. And you're confident that people can win against that those bigger corporate interest?

Adam Bandt 18:18

We need a people People Power movement I think and that's the thing that politicians listen to and the politicians respond to and to let you in on a trade secret politicians don't like to lose votes and don't like to lose their seats. And so the stop Adani movement is now getting really big across the country and is going into those marginal states and saying look sorry, but if you throw your support behind Adani, then we're going to pressure in the campaign to turf you out. So it's kind of the the people's moving moon acting in the public

interest rising up against that. That big pair of corporate donations that I talked about earlier. You've now got a people's people's movement, saying look, actually, you can take all the donation if you want. But if you vote for these, we're gonna vote against you.

Adam Bandt 19:23

Yeah, I am and I think that the tide is turning, you know, like I think that you look at the massive marches for the climate strike. And you say, people are saying, look, we fed up with you not taking time and change seriously. It's why we put you there to our government. And if you can't take climate change seriously then what are you there for and we're saying things like the greens policy that we've been pushing for ages for a federal Commission Against Corruption the national ICAG and is now becoming mainstream policy because everyone saying yeah, we we want what why that other governments can have corruption probe into them further, the politicians have to be kept accountable, but we don't have one at the federal level. And I think increasingly increasingly, you saying around the world to with the last US presidential election and big support to say Bernie Sanders and the like you're saying a lot of people saying, and the current way it's going isn't enough. And we want to get back to the thing about the public interest. And I think that it feels to me that increasingly, when you look at all of those things, that it does feel like the tides turning and I do feel people at the moment, are at the strongest they've ever been.

Max Middleweek 20:39

You've recently said that you wanted to ban the sale of petrol cars by 2030. Do you think that's achievable and and how are we going to pay for that?

Adam Bandt 20:48

It is, and it's totally achievable. And I think part of what government needs to do in the transition, like there's a lot of heavy lifting that the government needs to do itself to get us on track to 100% renewables and zero pollution, including things like electric cars. But the other thing that we need to do is give ourselves a plan

and a deadline. And if government can put in place we're going to be 100% renewable electricity by 2030, we're going to stop exporting coal by 2030. You won't be able to buy a petrol car from 2030. That gives industry and new forms of industry lots of time to create, create a new and redefine the way that we do business. And one of the things that I would really like to see us do when we're talking before about what else we do apart from coal, well, we could be exporting solar power, right, let's news these great new, a lot of other places and switching over to hydrogen and so if you can use solar power and wind to basically separate water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then find a way of transporting that hydrogen and sending it overseas that could be Australia's new export industry in Western Australia, they're actually talking about, there's a project that's now called backing from commercial banks. And they're talking about extending building undersea cables from the northwest of Western Australia, over to Singapore and Indonesia, to transport electricity that would be generated on a solar panel and wind farm in northwest of Western Australia, and would go on this undersea cable off to Asia. So there are amazing opportunities. And with cars as well, we know that we've got the technology for electric cars, we just need the take up. And I think when you look at the sustainable economy and the shared economy, and that people now want to do business a bit differently, if government can put those guidelines in place, and those deadlines are in, we could create a new clean, caring economy that doesn't involve wrecking the planet.

Max Middleweek 22:56

Awesome, and I think that's a really nice way to wrap up this interview. Adam, it's been a pleasure having you on speaking with us today. Do you have anything else you would like to say before we close?

Adam Bandt 23:11

I'm so pleased that there's people who are thinking about how we can create new businesses and new forms of enterprise that are based on sustainability and that are based on sharing and not just one single use resource extraction to get up ship it or throw it away. And and that's I think, increasingly with people are at and if way in Parliament and politics can do anything to hasten that transition and

make it happen more quickly and to say to those kind of enterprises, your what business should look like, then I think that's part of our job.

Max Middleweek 23:52

So that wraps up this episode with Adam Bandt. You can of course, find a full transcript in our show notes and details about conversation without the help this week from our intern Genevieve Marcocci music by Pryce and Live Footage and produced by Zero Impact and myself, Max Middleweek. We do hope you subscribe. See you next time.


More reading

Australian Parliament

Adam Bandt MP

Adani Mine

Franklin River Protests

Hazelwood Coal Power Station, Victoria

Stop Adani

Renewable Energy Info

World Scientists Consensus on Climate Change

Zero Impact

Music By: Pryce and Live Footage

Intern: Genevieve Marcocci

Produced by Zero Impact, Max Middleweek