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Climate change: the convergence of crisis

Building consensus on climate action

Sharan Burrow, Ross Garnaut and Frances Flanagan discuss the climate emergency, inequality and the breakdown of trust in democracy.

Update (Monday 16 March, 2020) 

In light of COVID-19 developments, please be advised this event will not be going ahead at this time. The Sydney Ideas program will continue, with our talks and conversations available as a podcast. Stay in the loop by signing up to our newsletter or following Sydney Ideas on Facebook and Twitter.


Australia has a complicated relationship with climate change. On the one hand, it’s at the forefront of climate changes – as demonstrated by recent bushfires, floods (and the drought before them). On the other, the country and economy has a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.  

Addressing this existential threat is complicated by its convergence with two other crises – escalating inequality and the breakdown of trust in democracy.  

The majority of Australians acknowledge there’s a problem and want climate action, but we are divided as vulnerable communities make clear that after decades of deregulation and globalisation they are in no mood to once again pay the highest price for economic change. And increasingly people across our democracy distrust our political leaders to be able to deliver major reform for the common good. 

The imperative to act on climate is a matter of human survival but with Just Transition measures for workers and communities it can also offer jobs, security and with hope rebuild trust in democracy.

Climate policy has destabilised Australian politics (and leaders) for over a decade. Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary and former President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions will offer insights into global shifts around both climate policy and technology to illustrate what can be done when governments, employers and unions work together to create opportunity out of the climate crisis.

In this event Ms Burrow will be joined by Professor Ross Garnaut, Distinguished Professor of Economics, and author of the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review and most recently Superpower: Australia's Low Carbon Opportunity; and Dr Frances Flanagan from the University of Sydney.

Presented collaboration with Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN).

The speakers

Sharan was elected General Secretary of the ITUC at its Second World Congress in Vancouver, June 2010. Prior to this, she held the position of ITUC President since its Founding Congress in Vienna (November 2006) and the position of ICFTU President since its 18th World Congress in Miyazaki (November 2004). She is the first woman to have held any of these positions.

Ross is an economist whose career has been built around the analysis of and practice of policy connected to development, economic policy and international relations in Australia, Asia and the Pacific. He has held senior roles in universities, business, government and other Australian and international institutions. He is Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University

Frances is an early career researcher with an interdisciplinary background in work studies and history. She holds a University of Sydney Fellowship based in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies and she is affiliated with two of the University’s interdisciplinary research hubs, the Sydney Policy Lab and the Sydney Environment Institute. Her research concerns the crucial and changing role that work has played as a source of social cohesion, identity and belonging in the context of ongoing changes to employment relationships, technology and the environment.

Event image credit: Photo by 贝莉儿 DANIST on Unsplash

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