Dancing on the Ceiling: Women Say Something

(6.30pm, Friday 28 February 2014, Sydney Town Hall)

Thank you, Kate [Monroe, MC]. Hello, everyone. Happy Mardi Gras!

It's wonderful to have you all here in Town Hall and wonderful to have such significant guests.

Last year, I spoke about how important it is that Women Say Something and how even more important it is that Women Do Something.

There are many areas where we need more women participating, advising and leading but none as vital or urgent than taking action on climate change. Everything else is academic without a liveable environment for future generations.

Leading scientists agree that we've reached a critical decade, that what we do over the next ten years will influence the world our children and grandchildren inherit.

With global warming of just two degrees, we risk catastrophic climate change - yet recent projections indicate we are heading for four-to-six degree changes.

The overwhelming weight of research points to increasingly severe weather—more intense droughts and fires, more floods in low-lying areas, and sea-level rises affecting hundreds of millions of people.

A recent CSIRO survey found 80 per cent of people believe climate change is happening, and while Australia is going backwards, other political leaders around the world are taking action.

Just last weekend, US Secretary of State John Kerry described climate change as a "weapon of mass destruction." He warned that "we should not allow shoddy science and extreme ideologues to compete with overwhelming scientific fact."

He said this while signing a new climate agreement with China.

Around the world cities like New York, Portland, London, Johannesburg, Singapore and Sao Paulo are all reducing their emissions.

And this is important because cities use over two thirds of the world's energy and emit more than 70 per cent of emissions, so its action in cities that provides us with the greatest opportunity for deep cuts.

Here in our city, while our State and Federal Governments fail to act, we have taken action. We have reduced our emissions by 20 per cent since 2006, and projects are underway to achieve 29 per cent reduction by 2016.

Thousands of trees have been planted. It's becoming safer and easier for people to walk or ride. We're recycling waste and water. Our buildings are more energy efficient. Thousands of street and park lights have been switched over to LED. And we've installed solar panels on our buildings - the largest rooftop solar project in Australia.

We've made the simple, obvious changes but to meet our target of reducing emissions by 70 per cent by 2030 we need to change the way we power our city. That means shifting away from coal-fired power and investing in clean, local energy including trigeneration fuelled by renewable gas.

Trigen provides electricity, heating and cooling and is used in cities like New York, Paris, London and Seoul.

The Chinese Government has a 50,000 megawatt trigeneration target - bigger than Australia's entire National Electricity Market.

Ours is not a radical plan. It's a tried and tested way to power global cities and Sydney should be part of it because Australia is already experiencing the impacts of climate change.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology confirms 2013 was our hottest year on record, marked by extreme weather events, bushfires and heatwaves.

In a major review released yesterday, the Climate Change Authority chaired by former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, found Australia's current target to cut emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 is not a credible step towards Australia meeting our contribution to keep warming to two degrees and that this target would leave an improbably large task for future Australians.

Meanwhile, our Prime Minister is hell-bent on repealing the price on carbon, has axed key agencies, including the respected Climate Commission and appointed a climate sceptic to review Australia's Renewable Energy Target.

But the fact is we already have many of the tools we need to future proof our cities and save our planet from catastrophic warming.

We know what needs to be done and how to do it.

Now is the time for more women to say something and do something to show our State and Federal political leaders that we want action based on science and evidence not the paralysis being promoted by vested interest groups.

I urge you to write, email, tweet and call your local MPs, tell them that you want action.

Talk to your family and friends about what's at stake.

Take your own action. If you don't know how, join the group 1 Million Women - a campaign of daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers - who have committed to take practical action on climate change by cutting 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Every woman who joins has a personal goal to cut 1 tonne of carbon dioxide from their daily lives within a year. You don't have to be an expert. Just join and you'll be guided every step of the way.

Google 1millionwomen.com.au for more information.

Now is not the time to stay silent or to do nothing. We have such a short window of opportunity to take action.

Our future depends on it.