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Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing our planet. Australia faces major climate change risks unless we begin to change and transition to a low carbon economy.

The cost of inaction is by far greater than the cost of action. This transition and policy responses create both challenges and opportunities for our communities.

Policy responses to climate change to protect low income Australians supported by ACOSS include improving energy efficiency and placing a price on carbon through an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change will greatly impact low income households

Climate change will affect low income households and disadvantaged communities disproportionately.

Low income earners tend to live in areas more likely to be adversely affected by climate change, and have far less ability to move or make other necessary adjustments to their living circumstances.

On average, low income earners spend a greater proportion of their total weekly household budget on energy and water than wealthier households.

As a proportion of household spending, lower income households spend almost twice as much as wealthier households. Similarly, the cost of water and sewage is, relatively, a third higher for low income households than it is for households on an average income.

Given that energy and water are essential services, when the prices of these services increase, householders are left with little option but to pay the extra.

Few households with low incomes are able to afford significant energy efficiency measures such as insulation, new hot water systems or rainwater tanks. One in four Australian households are in private rental or public housing and do not have rights or incentives to make capital improvements. Energy consumption in low income households is partly shaped by the market in second-hand appliances. Many second-hand appliances are inefficient, waste energy and increase bills.

ACOSS and climate change

ACOSS has been working with the community sector and Government for equitable solutions to the effects of climate change, so that low-income households are shielded from price hikes for essential goods and services.

We want to ensure that low-income people become part of the solution and are able to benefit from new opportunities, such as gaining employment in clean energy jobs.

ACOSS is a founding member of the Southern Cross Climate Coalition, formed by some of Australia's leading social, union and environmental organisations to help lead an effective and fair response to climate change.

Other members of the SCCC are the Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Council of Trade Unions, and The Climate Institute.

ACOSS has been working with the SCCC to ensure the Federal Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and Renewable Energy Target are equitable responses to climate change for all Australians.

A low carbon economy provides a major opportunity to unlock thousands of clean energy jobs. Clean energy jobs range from low-skill, entry-level positions to high-skill, higher-paid jobs, and include opportunities for advancement in both skills and wages.

If Australia doesn't take strong action on climate change and invest in clean energy jobs now, the economic opportunities will pass us by.

World's first national survey on climate change and the community sector

Climate change is all but certain. From drought and bushfire to greenhouse pollution and emissions trading schemes, what are the potential impacts of climate change? How will climate change affect the community sector and the services we provide? What risks does climate change pose to the sector and our clients? How do we cut through the tangle of climate change issues? What can we do? How can we prepare?

The climate change and the community welfare sector survey is the first ever national survey that seeks to discover how prepared the community welfare sector is for the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Did you know?

  • 50% of small and medium-sized SME organisations that suffer serious losses from an extreme weather event or disaster will never recover.
  • Between 2000 and 2007, the number of insurance claims against losses caused by extreme weather events rose from 12% of all claims to 31%.
  • Climate change is predicted to worsen the frequency and impacts of extreme weather events: from heatwaves to cyclones and from droughts to extreme precipitation.

The community welfare sector’s client base – people experiencing poverty and disadvantage – is the most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather impacts of any group in Australia.

As climate change worsens the impacts of extreme weather events, more people will turn to our sector for all types of assistance – in times of crisis and beyond. Yet, we lack a comprehensive understanding of whether the sector itself is well prepared to cope with these impacts.

This is also a large gap in the knowledge across the globe. This information gap needs to be urgently addressed so that we can ensure our own resilience to negative climate change and extreme weather impacts, help to foster resilience within client groups and the community, and provide solutions to governments at all levels as they seek to develop national, local and regional responses to climate change and extreme weather events.

The full report has now been released: Go to Climate Change and the Sector >>