Climate strikes gather momentum

Today I joined the Global Climate Strike. I was very impressed with the turnout, with the highest estimates being 300,000 across Australia and 150,000 in Melbourne. I can’t remember any climate protest being this big before.

The protests come ahead of the latest UN climate summit. Most likely it will be little better than the usual talkfest that has been inching along for nearly three decades now. But there is one ray of hope that it might be different this time. “Don’t bring a speech – bring a plan”, UN secretary general António Guterres told heads of state ahead of this summit. Leaders will not be allowed to speak unless they make a new commitment to do one of three things: offset all emissions by 2050, significantly increase their emissions reduction target, or fund action in poor countries. These actions fall short of what is needed, but at least the UN is finally making some attempt to penalize inaction.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not attending, even though he is in New York meeting with Donald Trump, who is also not attending. I find it bizarre that these two fossil fool politicians are travelling to the same city as an event they are snubbing.

Global emissions are still rising, despite hopes that they had plateaued in the mid-2010s. Emissions are rising particularly in Asia and the Middle East, particularly China whose use of coal is again increasing after a plateau. But, I think it is important to add, all countries are contributing by failing to reduce their emissions. Moreover global emissions from natural gas, oil, and cement are rising even faster than emissions from coal, and rich countries continue to increase their consumption of oil and gas despite decreasing their coal consumption. There has also been a global failure to increase land carbon storage, and this is set to worsen with massive fires such as those in the Amazon. Australia’s emissions are still rising, plus Australia is exporting fossil fuels to Asia.

In this context, the protests make three main demands:

  • No new coal, oil or gas projects
  • 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
  • Funding for “a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities”

The Australian government are reacting like cartoon villains as usual, claiming that the strike is a massive disruption to the school system. I find this pretty ludicrous. If anything, I worry that a school strike on Friday afternoon is not disruptive enough.

The reaction of the supposed “opposition”, the Australian Labor Party, is more two-faced. They claim to support the climate movement and even spoke at the protest I attended. Yet Labor has long been a supporter of new fossil fuel mines, and just this week Labor leader Anthony Albanese admitted the party would now focus on emissions targets for 2050 rather than 2030. Why did the protests give a platform to Labor politicians when they’re not in line with the protesters’ demand to stop new fossil fuels?

At the protest I heckled my local Labor MP, demanding that she say “No more fossil fuels.” I was ignored, of course, which in my opinion further demonstrates that the ALP is not serious about climate action.

It’s time for politicians from both major parties to stop representing fossil fuel corporations and start representing the interests of the people who elected them.

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