Did you miss the action over the weekend? Thousands of people around the world from Cairo to Canberra participated in events to move the planet beyond fossil fuels. There were over 2000 events in more than 175 countries with more than 40 Moving Planet events taking place across Australia from the Blue Mountains, Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne joining the thousands of events taking place around the globe.
But if you pick up a mainstream newspaper in Australia you won't find any reports of these grassroots actions. It seems the media love sucking up to the outlandish rantings of right wing radio talk-back shock-jock Alan Jones and the raucous placards of climate deniers - the modern day equivalent of flat earthers - but ignore the less confrontational messages of climate change activists. I guess this says much about the state of our current media in Australia.
At Bondi Beach in Sydney a couple of hundred people converged for Kite Flying to say YES to a Price on Pollution (Watch Youtube video). In Perth there was a rally outside Woodside Petroleum. In Melbourne hundreds of cyclists and people converged on Docklands to make a giant human bike sign for a transition to 100% renewable energy! But you wouldn't know any of this if you read the Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald, Courier Mail or the Age.
The Moving Planet international event, organised by 350.org, was about speaking out for action on climate change and reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. (It currently stands at over 390ppm).
The call went out by Bill McKibben from 350.org. “The planet has been stuck for too long with governments doing nothing about the biggest problem we've ever faced,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, the international climate campaign coordinating the demonstrations. “This is the day when people will get the earth moving, rolling towards the solutions we need.”
There were also lots of smaller events in regional places such as the 'Arrival of the Cycle Tribes' at the Warburton Trail in the Yarra Valley, Ride around the lake and picnic in Bendigo, Kite Party for climate action in Newcastle, events in Armidale, Ballina, Blacktown, Maitland, Nambucca Heads, The Entrance, Cairns, Sunshine Coast... the list goes on.
At the melbourne event one speaker called attention to the Beyond Zero Emissions Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan which outlines the technical feasibility of moving Australia stationary energy to 100% renewables by 2020 with just using current commercial technology. The plan was publicly launched in Melbourne in July 2010.
Two weeks ago on September 13 the carbon price legislation was introduced into the Australian Federal Parliament. The legislation is due to put to the vote before Christmas and should succeed with support of the Greens and the three of the four Independent MPs in the House of Representatives and with the support of the Greens senators in the Senate.
Greg Combet, the Climate Change Minister, in one of his many media appearances ,told Philip Clarke and listeners on ABC radio 702 Sydney at breakfast on 14 September: "We’ve taken the advice from scientists and scientific academies around the world Phillip. And this is not a new issue. It’s been, you know, largely debated over the last twenty years. And the Government is standing up for what it believes is the right thing to do for the country."
"And we are determined therefore to make this change. It’s a very manageable change in our economy with a very modest impact. And of course as I said earlier, we’ll be providing assistance to households and to businesses too to manage this change over a period of time. But we do have to tackle it. If we don’t make our contribution to cutting pollution and investing in clean energy, changes will be imposed upon us by other countries. And it’s not as if we are the only ones doing it."
"Yesterday I met with representatives from China, from the State of California in the US. I met recently with people from Europe about these issues. South Korea is also concentrating on this question. People are introducing a carbon price into their economies overseas. California will start next year. It’s a much bigger economy than ours. Six emissions trading schemes that will introduce carbon pricing in China, large areas of China, will commence in 2013. Carbon pricing has been throughout Europe over the last six years."
"We need to be part of international efforts and it’s perfectly manageable. All we are seeing is a scare campaign run by Tony Abbott to try and terrify people about their jobs and the cost of living in order to get himself into the position of prime minister. Ultimately, we’ve just got to look at the facts here and recognise that difficult policy reforms like this we have to come to grips with. We’ve done it in the past and it stands the country in good stead."
Tony Abbott, leader of the Federal Opposition, continues to threaten repeal of the carbon pricing legislation. But such an action will have far reaching and negative consequences. These include trying to reverse the major taxation changes and pension increases that are tied in as compensation, without blowing a budget black hole; and the effect on investment certainty in the business communty who are anticipating the changes already announced.
Greg Combet told Sydney ABC radio listeners "And if you just think about the electricity generating sector and you’re potentially investing in a power station that will have a life of thirty, forty or fifty years. You don’t want the policy changing all the time. In fact the energy sector has been calling for a carbon price so that they can have certainty to invest in long lived assets. And I think from a practical economic point of view, the carbon price will be there and be important to be maintained because it will drive change in our economy and cut pollution."
My attendance at one of the Melbourne events was one small voice added to a few hundred voices at the event in Melbourne Docklands, added to tens of thousands of voices internationally on Saturday around the globe, including many actions across the Pacific from Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, to Auckland.
I have read quite a few scientific papers on climate change, and listened to several climate scientists in person. We are in a critical decade to take action on climate change. I am well aware of the social imperative to start action on carbon pricing, even at a just a nominal level as proposed by the Gillard Government. The Australian Carbon pricing policy is a small start to tackling climate change, but one that is essential to take.
* Moving Planet bikesign from Melbourne and Tuvalu reproduced Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
* Photos by Takver of Melbourne are all CC-by-SA 2.0 from Flickr