Business-as-usual future scenarios will disastrously overshoot the COP21 climate change agreement. More solar cells, wind turbines and electric cars do not change the BAU scenarios. The only way to avoid catastrophic climate change is to leave most of the known fossil fuels in the ground. The only way to leave fossil fuel in the ground is to transition every activity that uses fossil fuel to very low energy use. I hope this simple and irrefutable concept challenges your perception of sustainability.

We do not need to purchase more sustainable products and use more renewable energy. We need to stop unsustainable activities, stop making consumer stuff and stop producing fossil fuels.

How would we close down coalmines, curtail personal vehicle production, shut down a plastics factory or remove flights from airline schedules?  Objectively, you know it is easy to do these things, in fact they happen all the time. Corporations decide to shut down a factory, a smelter or a refinery for any reason, usually because of lagging profits.  Of course when a factory shuts down it is devastating for workers and the community, but from the perspective of history these short-term difficulties look different, they look like change.

Imagine for a minute that a future exists where global warming was limited to 1.5 oC as per the COP21 agreement. That future 2117 will still be adapting to the unstable climate, it will be different from today in some ways and familiar in others. People in that 2117 know what Melbourne is like without cars. They have plenty of leisure time, but they don’t take international flights to island resorts. They are healthy and fit with good diets, education and healthcare. They look back with curiosity at the transitions we undertake, how we improve quality of life, meet the market, return a profit and improve the environment. They know the work we do in redeveloping our cities.  They know how we achieve the transition. A new field emerges, and Transition Engineers figure out how to change everything and make things work in new ways and all those ways use much less energy.

This article was kindly provided by Susan Krumdieck, previous participant at the Liveable Cities Conference.

For more information on the 11th Liveable Cities Conference this July please visit www.liveablecities.org.au