COSS media release: Political inaction on climate change is hurting our most vulnerable, worsening poverty and inequality

12 December 2019

Joint Councils of Social Service media release. Original post on ACOSS website.

In the midst of unprecedented bushfires and international climate talks in Madrid, the Councils of Social Service are calling for urgent government action on climate change to support those hardest hit by its impacts – people on low incomes or experiencing disadvantage. In a joint statement released today, the Councils of Social Service argue the climate crisis is not only a threat to our environment, it is a threat to people’s lives and livelihoods, and to ending poverty and inequality.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “The costs of political inaction are being felt now, today by millions of people, especially those people on low incomes or experiencing disadvantage who are hit hardest because they are less likely to have the means to cope, adapt and recover.

“Unprecedented bushfires fuelled by the climate crisis, burning across parts of Australia have destroyed homes, livelihoods and tragically taken lives. The costs are immeasurable.

“Thousands of people continue to live on the edge with a suitcase of valuables at their front door, sleepless nights, waiting, not knowing if their home is next.

“We are calling on Minister Taylor to use the international climate talks underway in Spain to announce Australia is willing to do more and foreshadow an increase to 2030 emissions reduction targets.

“As a wealthy developed nation with cheap renewable energy resources, we have a responsibility and the ability to respond more rapidly, while looking after workers, communities and people on low-incomes.”

New South Wales Council of Social Service CEO, Joanna Quilty, said: “Everyone in New South Wales is feeling the effects of either drought or bushfires that have been made worse because of the climate crisis. As Sydney lies blanketed in a thick haze, people are looking to governments to take effective action.

“Hundreds of people have lost homes and possessions and the majority will struggle to recover financially and emotionally. The climate crisis is making more people vulnerable to hardship.We have only just started summer and the experts are warning worse is to come. Urgent collective action is needed.”

Victorian Council of Social Service CEO, Emma King, said: “Poor and vulnerable communities are being hit the first and the worst by climate change. It’s morally reprehensible to stand by and let this happen. All levels of government must work together to act on climate change. We urgently need a response that is bold and comprehensive, but also fair and equitable-so that nobody is left behind.”

Queensland Council of Social Service CEO Mark Henley said: “We need governments to take effective action on climate change and support people, communities and organisations to become more resilient to extreme weather and natural disasters. We have seen droughts, floods and bushfires having significant impact on people in communities across the state. Politicians need to listen to communities. Queenslanders are fed up with elected representatives ignoring crystal clear evidence showing we have walked headfirst into a climate crisis.”

Northern Territory Council of Social Service CEO, Deborah Di Natale, said: “It’s clear climate change is already occurring with devastating effects, and more change is already locked in. We must support people to adapt, build community resilience, and ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the transition to a clean energy future.”

Western Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Louise Giolitto said “Governments also need to do more to support community sector organisations who are on the front line providing services to vulnerable Australians during and after extreme weather events. Community sector organisations play a critical role in disaster preparedness, management and recovery, especially for vulnerable people.”

Tasmanian Council of Social Service CEO Kym Goodes said: “Based on the available evidence a slow transition now will require faster, more expensive and more disruptive change in the future, while heightening risks of more dangerous climate change. If our Governments don’t start acting with more urgency we will be leaving our children with an unimaginable burden and cost.”

South Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Ross Womersley said: “Governments need to be doing much more right now to help people on low-incomes who are struggling to cope, adapt and recover from extreme weather events. People living in poverty will always struggle to afford the energy they need to cool their homes to cope with extreme heat or even to buy face masks to manage in bushfire smoke. There is an urgent need to raise Newstart, improve our energy concessions and invest in energy efficiency upgrades for homes of people struggling on the lowest incomes.”

ACT Council of Social Service Policy Manager Craig Wallace, concluded: “Our city experiences extremes of both heat and cold so the climate crisis is a social justice issue. Federal, State and local Government must do more to protect low income and disadvantaged people from the impacts of climate change and prevent more people being trapped into poverty.”

Read the Council of Social Service Network climate statement on the ACOSS website.

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