By Anna Ho and Gina Elias
‘The water is rising, no more compromising!’
Lismore was ready with chants like this when Scott Morrison appeared at a press conference on March 9. The Prime Minister was ready as well. His car was escorted to the council building’s back entrance, lest he grab a protester’s hand and shake it a la bushfire victim.
Over the last few weeks, twenty one people have died in Australia from the east coast floods. Only a year ago, Sydney experienced its worst flooding in sixty years. These are disasters which the latest IPCC Report – breaking comparatively quietly during the floods – warns will become more likely.
In light of the certainty of future disaster, our government’s woefully inadequate disaster responses are all the more worrying. Peter Dutton launched a widely derided GoFundMe for a Queensland flood-affected community; electorates hardest hit by the floods were denied extensions to Commonwealth disaster payments. Shane Stone, the coordinator general of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency, told the Sydney Morning Herald that “You’ve got people who want to live among the gum trees – what do you think is going to happen?”
The LNP appears to have no qualms about leaving towns already struggling with poverty and housing to die from the climate crisis that they have helped fuel. Working class communities, meanwhile, in Australia or internationally, have been forced to deal with the worst of endless fires and floods. Climate action manifests not only in an end to fossil fuels, but in funding public and emergency services, particularly in frontline communities, for the disasters to come.
Can we expect anything better this federal election?
It’s clear to many why the current Liberal government is an enemy of climate action. Scott Morrison is infamous for waving around a lump of coal in parliament. His government is proudly overseeing a ‘gas-fired economic recovery’, the Adani coal mine’s construction and the expansion of coal. Australia now has in the works over 100 new fossil fuel projects which are predicted to emit 5% of the world’s industrial emissions. The LNP recently approved a new $19 million fracking operation of the Beetaloo basin, which would drive up Australia’s emissions by 13%. This is all happening even after Australia’s historic bushfires of 2019-20 and this year’s summer floods, both from which many people are still recovering.
The problem is, the Labor party is no alternative. They have already shown they want to indicate to the fossil fuel industry they aren’t a threat by reducing their 2030 emissions reduction target from the already tepid 45% to 43%. Labor backed every one of the government’s anti-climate policies, including the gas-fired recovery, and all of the 100+ new fossil fuel projects. It was Labor Premier Palaszuck in QLD who approved Adani, the biggest coal mine in the southern hemisphere, despite mass opposition in 2018 and in opinion polls- even though 59% of QLD’s population, often derided as a coal-loving state, opposed the mine.
We can’t have any hope in waiting around for those in power to change anything. The politicians and CEOs of the world have far too much profit and power to gain from fossil fuels. From 2019 to 2020, Australia’s fossil fuel industry made $115 billion from exporting petroleum and coal. Just like Australia’s bushfires, this summer’s floods saw the government leave working class people stranded in NSW and QLD, and is continuing to double down on the fossil fuels heating up the planet.
Why you should join the climate strike
If we want to achieve the climate action that’s necessary, not more empty promises, it’s up to the rest of us to fight for it. The majority of Australians want climate action: a 2021 Lowy poll showed 63% of Australians support a ban on new coal mines and reducing Australian coal exports to other countries. If any real climate action is to be realised, it is vital that we collectively mobilise that public opinion in the streets regardless of who gets into government.
On March 25 this year, people around the world will be joining the next Global Climate Strike, called by Fridays for Future. Original teen climate striker and all-round legend Greta Thunberg’s twitter shows there are plans for climate strikes in Nigeria, Italy and Glasgow. In Australia, home to the world’s biggest climate criminals, high schoolers in School Strike 4 Climate have called a protest for this day in Sydney.
Across Sydney, university students from UNSW, UTS, MQ, USYD and beyond will be gathering for our own uni student central contingent for a short speak-out outside the UTS tower at 11am on the day before we march. Join us to hear from student climate activists who’ve been around for a few years now, and to march together with us to the main protest at the Domain. Make sure to come along so we can show that uni students want real climate action now.
About the Authors
Gina Elias – I’m an anti-capitalist in Uni Students for Climate Justice (USCJ) on and off UNSW campus. USCJ was started in 2019 in Sydney and across Australia to organise mass action and make the demands necessary for genuine climate action. We are for shutting down the fossil fuel industry and making the rich pay for a just transition to renewable power. You may know us from the 80,000 strong ‘Sack Scomo’ bushfire protests in 2019-20.
Anna Ho – I was the 2020-21 SRC Environment Officer, convening the UNSW Environment Collective – an anti-capitalist and anti-colonial student activist group on campus which focuses on mobilizing UNSW students for large scale climate action e.g., student climate strikes, and political education.