Evatt Foundation submission on climate action

The core mission of the Evatt Foundation is to advance the ideals of the labour movement that H. V. (Doc) Evatt embodied in his life and work: equality, democracy, social justice and human rights. In view of Evatt’s work to promote these values not only domestically but also internationally, the Foundation is committed to ensuring that Australia is a force in the world for global social justice.

To honour Doc Evatt’s legacy means to act in the spirit of his principles as they apply to Australia’s contemporary context. When Evatt presided over the United Nations General Assembly for its adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, he recognised that, as set out in the preamble of the UDHR, human rights were not simply moral imperatives for their own sake; rather their protection was a necessary condition for freedom, justice and peace in the world, for friendly relations between nations, and to prevent the recurrence of barbarous acts.

In 2020, the protection of human rights continues to play this foundational role, but it has been joined by a second foundational imperative: the protection of the environment and specifically the mitigation of climate change. Unless the governments and peoples of the world take urgent and comprehensive action to first seriously limit and then rapidly eliminate the emission of greenhouse gases (principally carbon), none of the values for which the labour movement stands will be realised. A temperature rise above 1.5 degrees will gravely exacerbate inequality, undermine the conditions for democracy and make life for those to whom the contemporary labour movement is committed intolerable.

This submission from the Evatt Foundation thus stands on two foundations. First, that for the ALP to make a solemn commitment to act on climate change is continuous with the core principles of the labour movement. Second, that its so doing is a necessary condition for acting on these principles. In short, the principles of decency and fairness that underpin the ideals of social justice translate in 2020 to comprehensive climate action.

As the imperative to act on climate change comes to be universally recognised, there will inevitably be ideological and political battles about what forms such action ought to take. There will be significant pressure from sites of concentrated political and economic power to shape the transition in ways that are inconsistent with principles of fairness. In this regard, the labour movement has a critical role to play in ensuring that the transition is informed by principles of social justice and equality. In embracing a set of policies directed to mitigating climate change and putting in place adaptation strategies, we have an opportunity to ensure that the inevitable transition is one that is socially just. The proposal that the Evatt Foundation is making thus seeks to marry the principles of environmental sustainability, environmental justice and social justice.

To pursue these principles, the Evatt Foundation recommends the following policy commitments:

1. Interim, as well