The Adam Majcher Legacy Fellowship was set up in honour of former Climateworks staff member, Common Cause Australia co-founder and Climate Reality Project organiser Adam Majcher, who passed away suddenly in 2017.
The program is an annual opportunity offered to an outstanding university student or recent graduate who demonstrates potential to build collective impact and to strengthen the solutions story on climate change in Australia. Our outgoing Fellow for 2021 is University of Sydney Masters student Brett Morgan.
Here, Brett reflects on his time as part of the program:
It was only four years ago when I first began to comprehend the true scale and complexity of the climate crisis we face. Despite having a vague understanding of a few seemingly disconnected environmental, social and economic issues in my teenage years and early twenties, I had no idea that the emissions from burning massive amounts of coal, oil and gas had placed the world on a trajectory towards total climate breakdown.
I was lucky enough to have lived the early years of my life completely oblivious to this terrible truth. Nowadays, however, rarely a day goes by where I don’t at least feel a small pang of anxiety about what life might be like under different global warming scenarios. What happens if we don’t meet the 1.5°C climate goal of the Paris Agreement, or even keep warming to well below 2°C? What if we can’t curb emissions rapidly and steeply enough to avoid a catastrophic 2.7°C of warming?
Engaging with people over climate solutions is a powerful bridge from climate despair to climate action.Brett Morgan, Adam Majcher Legacy Program 2021 Fellow
Questions like these are what inspired me to apply for the Adam Majcher Legacy Program, and it is compassion and concern for those who will be most impacted by climate change that fuels my ongoing commitment to the climate movement every day. Compassion for First Nations peoples—both here and across the globe—who have been on the frontlines of the climate struggle for years. Compassion for our school children, who—unlike my own school experience—are compelled to skip school to demand our politicians take the climate crisis seriously. Compassion for our Pacific Island neighbours, many of whom will lose their homes to rising sea levels.
Growing up with little exposure to environmental issues and being the first in my family to go to university, I never thought I would be in a position where I would be working alongside a movement of others to bring about systemic change and create a better world. This is why I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to learn from and work alongside the truly remarkable people at Climateworks Centre, Common Cause and the Climate Reality Project, and grateful to be able to share my key learnings and reflections from these experiences.
Firstly, talking about climate impacts is difficult. Despite having volunteered and worked in the climate movement for the past four years, most of my time is spent focused on solutions, not impacts. The Climate Reality Leadership training was my first exposure to climate impacts—in great detail—in quite some time, and it was nothing short of overwhelming. Watching and learning from Al Gore’s iconic ‘climate crisis and its solutions’ presentation placed Australia’s 2019-20 bushfire crisis (and, more recently, the flooding along the Eastern seaboard) into solemn perspective amongst the many other climate impacts happening across the globe.
Conversely, talking about climate solutions is empowering. We already have the means, the people, the technology, and the vision to create a better world, and all we need is the global political will to get there. Engaging with people over climate solutions is a powerful bridge from climate despair to climate action, and is a key ingredient in organising wide and deep grassroots support for climate solutions.
On that note, building grassroots momentum is essential to solving the climate crisis. The world we want to see will not be made entirely by technocrats, bureaucrats and policymakers, no matter how good their intentions. Rather, the climate movement will succeed by bringing everyone along. It will succeed because of school strikers, First Nations peoples, marginalised groups with the most to lose from climate impacts, and anyone else willing to get on board and fight for a decent future. The Climate Reality Leadership Corps is doing this exceptionally well by connecting and training climate leaders all over the world to continue building this momentum, and I will be forever inspired by those I met throughout the training.
To build momentum, however, we need to connect with people over our ‘intrinsic values.’ The Common Cause Fundamentals workshops taught me some really astute lessons about values; namely, that our values are at the heart of everything we do, think, and say. Connecting with people over intrinsic values—those that are ‘good in themselves’ or ‘internally rewarding,’ such as honesty, equality and creativity—will enable us to bring more people into the climate movement and help realise our vision for a safe climate future. This is why we need to always frame our issues from the perspective of the world we want to see. Framing is an important tool we can use to help ensure that our narratives about climate solutions—and the shared values underpinning them—are getting the attention needed to shift public perceptions and inspire lasting change.
In my time at Climateworks, I worked with the Sustainable Corporates team on the ‘Net Zero Momentum Tracker,’ analysing the various corporate climate initiatives and frameworks from all over the globe and across a variety of sectors. I was pleased to learn that the gap between corporate climate ambition and action is closing, as more corporate actors are starting to adopt climate strategies such as Paris-aligned emissions targets. However, these commitments can vary significantly across different sectors, and ensuring corporates continue to raise their ambitions (and allocate resources to meet them) has therefore never been more important as we move toward achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.
My final reflection is this: systems change is complex, but the right approach will get us where we need to be. Climate change is a complex problem that requires an incredible amount of coordination across the climate movement, and Climateworks is playing a key role in addressing this problem from a systems change perspective. The organisation’s ability to provide trusted advice, research, engagement and communications across so many different systems gives me hope for our movement.
I would like to wholeheartedly thank the brilliant people I met and world with at Climateworks, Common Cause and the Climate Reality Project for the opportunity to participate in the Adam Majcher Legacy Program. This experience has broadened my perspective on how we are going to solve the climate crisis, and enabled me to build lasting relationships with other people who have committed their lives to working towards a safe climate future. I only hope that I can live up to Adam’s memory by continuing in his footsteps and building on his impactful work.