Despite heavy rain thousands of Sydneysiders responded to the GetUp call for national action with more than 100 diverse community actions held simultaneously around the country.
GetUp’s rallying call in the lead up aimed to mobilise the country: “We can’t let this Government think that we will stay silent as they abolish climate legislation, axe the Climate Commission, fire CSIRO scientists, and not even show up to international climate negotiations. We can’t send the message to Labor and the Greens that they can go weak on climate change.”
Arriving almost an hour late due to the rain I was taken aback to see the size of the crowd sheltering under a colourful array of umbrellas. As I crossed Cleveland Street headed for Prince Alfred Park a steady stream of people pushing plastic covered prams were leaving, driven home by the heavy rain. I asked what had drawn them to the park in such inclement weather and the four sets of parents I approached all gave the same answer: they did it for the future of their children.
Newly-elected deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek was among those who attended the rally and she was pleased at the turnout.
“Fantastic turnout, miserable weather but nevertheless fantastic turnout. I think it shows how much people care about climate change that so many Australians are here to demand strong action.”
Ms Plibersek said it was shocking that Australia had not sent a senior representative to the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, which opened on 11 November 11 and is scheduled to end on November 22.
“It’s very important that Australia is at the table at these climate change negotiations,” she said.
On the first day of the conference Australia was awarded the international Climate Action Network Fossil of the Day award, given to the country that did the most to block progress at the negotiations that day. Australia also topped the Fossil of the Day Awards on the Wednesday for planning to repeal the carbon price, stripping $435 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and removing $10 billion of investment in clean energy.
Ms Plibersek said the fight was now to stop the Abbott government’s attempts to abolish the carbon tax.
“The next stage is making sure Tony Abbott’s repeal bills don’t get through the House of Representatives or the Senate. It’s very important that we don’t let Tony Abbott take Australia backwards.”
That sentiment was pronounced at the 130 events around the nation that together attracted more than 60,000 people who called for Australia’s carbon pollution to be cut by at least 25 per cent by 2020, the development and choice of renewables instead of carbon and gas and putting a price and limit on carbon emissions.
Firefighters across Australia also joined the rallies. Danny Ward, a firefighter from Victoria featured on the GetUp site, saying: “When you stand actually fighting a bushfire, you just realise there’s something wrong here, something different. Something has changed. Climate change is real. I’ll be there with my family this Sunday, and we need you there too.”
There’s now a GetUp petition circulating calling for stronger action on climate change and for Australia to make use of abundant solar, wind, geothermal and wave energy and for the government to respect climate science and scientists.
“Australia is the highest per person carbon polluter among all developed countries, the 15th highest overall polluter and our emissions are still rising. Australia must continue to do its fair share to cut global carbon pollution and limit warming to below 2 degrees temperature rise. We demand that our government respects the science and aims higher on climate. We’re asking for strong, meaningful climate action, which is in the national and global interest.”