The rallying cry—talking climate action

As communities work to rebuild their lives in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, it’s timely to consider how to best consider climate justice when acting to prevent further harm through climate change.

“Climate action is the broad collective of tools that people are pulling together to try and address climate change. With a climate justice perspective, we think much more carefully about the equitable implications of our climate action. We want to be taking action that also addresses equity so that we are building a fairer society as we build a fairer planet,” says Dr Amanda Thomas.

Dr Thomas, from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, and alumna Dr Shalini Divya, CEO of TasmanIon, join Dr Sarah-Jane O’Connor from the Centre for Science in Society to talk about climate action being taken by individuals and organisations to sustain our future, from a technological and societal perspective. This is the first episode in our new Sustainability-focused podcast series.

Where she grew up in India, Dr Divya’s access to electricity wasn’t reliable—so when it came to deciding the topic for her chemistry PhD, she chose to help eradicate “energy poverty” by developing a cheaper, more sustainable battery.

“While industries are transitioning towards renewable energy sources, they need to have ways to store the energy, and this is where batteries come into action,” says Dr Divya.People in rural areas, students studying at night, and small hand loom industries set up by local women could all benefit from the affordable, stored energy, she explains.

This solution reflects an equitable outcome for energy storage, which will contribute to climate justice, says Dr Thomas. “At its core, climate justice speaks to the idea that the people least responsible for climate change will be the most affected. There is a 2022 report that indicates that the wealthiest one percent of the world cause double the carbon dioxide emissions of the poorest 50 percent,” she says.

Addressing poverty and gender inequality are crucial parts of “building a fairer society as we build a fairer planet,” Dr Thomas says. “If we have to make change anyway, let’s make change that lifts everyone up.

“If people think that they’re taking good climate action by buying a Tesla, but are still flying to Europe every year for a resort holiday, that’s not climate justice. If Tesla is making enormous profits and laying off a whole lot of workers, that’s not climate justice. It’s about having much more nuance in how we talk and think about that action.

”Companies like that founded by Dr Divya are leading the way in changing the way we view our limited resources.“When you think of communities like those in India, it’s important for them to understand that affordable battery technology, a cleaner battery technology that they can use along with solar panels is going to change their lives.”

Find out more about what these researchers have to say.

This podcast was recorded in mid-November 2022.