Will Turnbull sit in the dark for Earth Hour? I doubt it

IT SEEMS LIKE an insignificant, simple thing and detractors say it is nothing more than a tokenistic gesture, but turning off your lights for one hour next Saturday evening, is one small step you can take to show you care about climate change.

Earth Hour started in Sydney in 2007 and now it celebrates its tenth year with events planned in over 170 countries and more than 7,000 cities.

Earth Hour is only one small contribution to saving the planet and it might seem like a “one light-bulb at a time” kind of change, but as with many things, it’s the thought that counts.

All you have to do is switch off your lights for one hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Saturday 25th of March.

According to WWF Australia CEO, Dermot O’Gorman, Australians should feel proud of the role they’ve played in starting a decade-long, global conversation about climate change. “It’s a great Australian success story,” he says.

“We have seen a huge number of positive steps towards a brighter future in the decade since Earth Hour started, proof that one person can make a difference.” 

The tenth anniversary of Earth Hour is also a useful time to reflect on how far we’ve come.

In 2006, less than 1,000 homes across Australia were using solar panels. Now the number is over 1.5 million and growing. We have quadrupled our use of wind power over the last decade and renewables continue to chip-away at coal as the energy source for electricity generation.

Now, in the wake of blackouts in South Australia and predictions of more to come across the southeast of the country, the pressure is on to turn back to coal and gas. The energy lobby is relentless in its expensive pursuit of influence in Canberra.

However, coal and gas are not so popular with the general public, hence we’ve seen Malcolm Turnbull reach for a major distraction in the past week — a half-baked plan to increase the capacity of hydro-electric power generation in the Snowy Mountains at a cost upwards of $2 billion dollars.

Bill Shorten hasn’t ruled out supporting the scheme, which is currently under feasibility study, but he described the idea as another of the PM’s “thought bubbles” that has not been properly vetted through the policy process.

Both the Victorian and NSW governments were also blind-sided by Turnbull’s announcement, despite being the major shareholders in the current Snowy Mountains hydro generation project.

And Shorten is right, Fizza needed the Snowy announcement to distract media attention from the “chaotic” national electricity market which is so compromised it might now be cheaper for Australia to export gas to japan and buy it back, than to sell gas directly into the Australian market.

Meanwhile, back to Earth Hour and calls for PM Turnbull to switch the lights off in his harbourside mansion for one hour on Saturday night.

Last year, Turnbull refused requests from Earth Hour organisers to switch off the lights. In 2016, Earth Hour manager Sam Webb called out Turnbull and other leading Aussie politicians for “dragging their feet” on renewables and climate change.

At the time, Ms Webb told news.com.au that there “are some very cynical people in the world” on climate issues.

“There are also those who have very closely held interests that are threatened by the move away from fossil fuels onto clean, renewable energy. Sadly, a small number of powerful people make a lot of money from creating the pollution that is causing global warming and they are doing all they can to keep polluting, with no regard for the devastating impact this is having around the world.”

Sadly, we see it is no different this year.

The Government is prepared to subsidise a giant coalmine in Queensland and Malcolm Turnbull still hasn’t pledged to support Earth Hour in 2017.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is hoping to encourage / embarrass Turnbull into sitting in the dark on Saturday evening by crowd-funding an advertising campaign involving large trucks and billboards with the simple message: ‘Dear Mr Turnbull will you switch off for Earth Hour?’

I’ve put in a media request to the PM’s office seeking an answer to this question, I expect to not get a response. I’ll let you know.

Help Earth Hour crowdfund the billboard for Canberra (Image courtesy WWF/Earth Hour)

If you want to get involved in Earth Hour, there is a website devoted to local events, you can either attend one of these, or launch your own.

First published on Independent Australia

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