Sydney Morning Herald
December 16, 2008 – 3:42PM
Student, environment and community organisations joined green groups in blockading government offices across the nation’s major cities this morning in anger at Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 5 per cent emissions cuts target.
Wielding banners calling for “Policy change, not Climate change”, protesters in Sydney voiced their outrage at emissions cuts they saw as “half measures” at rallies outside the Federal Government offices in Phillip Street and Labor MP Tanya Plibersek’s door in Surry Hills.
Led by NSW Greens MP John Kaye, community members outside the Federal Government offices called for a “climate leader, not a climate follower” in the face of emission targets they labelled a joke.
“It’s not a white paper, it’s a white flag of surrender,” Mr Kaye said.
“Australia needs real targets that not only bring down our greenhouse gas emissions but also drive the change in our economy to create real jobs.
“It’s a kick in the guts to climate and a kick in the guts to renewable energy,” he said.
Mr Kaye spoke alongside Nature Conservation Council of NSW chief executive officer Cate Faehrmann and Australian Student Environment Network spokeswoman Nicky Ison.
He called the emissions target “a free kick to the coal industry” that neglected to support the Australian economy and workforce against recession through proper investment in renewable energy.
“Stiffer targets would give Australia a boost to the economy – that will see us come out of the current recession with a strong economy based on exporting renewable energy,” Mr Kaye said.
“Working families are being deserted on the job front.”
Woollahra resident, Linda Wilhelm, 62, who attended the 10am rally, said Mr Rudd’s lack of ambitious leadership in cutting emissions made her “embarrassed to be an Australian”.
“I’m just so depressed, so disappointed in the Labor Government. There was such a strong promise to do what the previous government failed to do and then we come up with 5 per cent. There may as well be no per cent,” Mrs Wilhelm said.
Her distress at Mr Rudd’s failure to deliver on Professor Ross Garnaut’s target of 25-40 per cent by 2020 was echoed by the community’s youth.
“Five per cent is a joke,” said student Rachael Chick, 20. “I voted for Kevin Rudd in the last election pretty much because of his stance on climate change. Now I think he’s just being a fence sitter.”
Ms Ison and Ms Faehrmann said Mr Rudd’s target made it clear he had turned his back on the voting Australian population who want decisive action on climate change.
Similar concerns were voiced outside Ms Plibersek’s office, as members of Climate Action Balmain-Rozelle surrounded the entrance. They were dressed in flippers and goggles in reference to rising sea levels caused by global warming.
The group’s organiser, Jenny Curtis, said the community was frustrated its position on climate change was not being heard by elected leaders.
“What does Kevin Rudd say to all those thousands of people who have Walked against Warming, who have turned their lights out in Earth Hour? If he’s looking for a mandate from the people to go for strong targets then what do we have to do?” she said.
Ms Faehrmann said the Government would now see a spike in more drastic measures to get the message across.
“When it comes to the planet and a safe climate we need to step it up. They haven’t listened to us when we’ve politely asked, so I think there will be a rise in non-violent, direct action [such as] occupying Parliament and sit-ins in offices,” Ms Faehrmann said.
Ms Chick said community climate action groups around the country were already preparing to confront the Government at Parliament House next year, in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
An Australian Climate Action Summit arranged for February 3 will unite thousands of community members in a human circle around Parliament on its first sitting day, in a bid to sway the Rudd Government to raise its emissions targets to 40 per cent by 2020.