Action on greenhouse needed now

Issue 

Editorial: Action on greenhouse needed now

Action on greenhouse needed now

Last week several more imperialist governments revealed the negotiating positions on greenhouse gas targets they intend to take to the December UN climate change conference in Kyoto.

Britain, which has attacked the Howard government's anti-targets position, has said it will seek cuts in emissions of 20% on 1990 levels by 2010. Succumbing to pressure from the fossil fuel lobby, President Bill Clinton has committed the US only to favouring stabilising of emissions at 1990 levels by 2012 (which includes a four-year phase-in program).

With just 4% of the world's population, the US is responsible for 23% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Last year CO2 emissions in the US jumped 3.4%, so Clinton's position in effect argues that the US should be allowed to continue to increase its greenhouse gas emissions for the foreseeable future.

This is a disguised version of the position taken by the federal Coalition government. While Clinton purports to be concerned to arrive at a compromise which all developed countries will agree to sign, the truth is that such a position gives governments such as Australia's more grounds for intransigence.

If we're going to have any chance of forcing the Howard government to change its stand on greenhouse, we must move urgently.

Public rallies and marches are still the best way of organising effective protest events.

When tens of thousands of people get out on to streets together, it sends a powerful statement of people's opinion to government. And it works! Labor was forced to limit its pro-uranium policy in the mid-1980s because of such mass actions.

The anti-uranium movement was a powerful force precisely because it involved ordinary people from many different backgrounds. The fact that they took their protest onto the streets meant that the government couldn't get away with ignoring public opinion — as it is doing over greenhouse.

A national day of action has been planned for November 30. This is the day before the start of the United Nations climate change conference in Kyoto. At the moment, bicycle rallies are being planned. This is a first step, but to allow a lot more people to get involved — young, old and those without bicycles — these events need to be expanded.

For maximum impact, a series of other public actions needs to be organised. Public meetings, pickets and protests outside John Howard's office in Sydney, outside Parliament House in Canberra, outside any coal or aluminium manufacturer, can be quickly and easily organised. Greenpeace's cheeky stunt, assembling solar panels on John Howard's Sydney residence, also made the point.

Publicly advertised actions would not only focus the media spotlight on the government's reactionary greenhouse position, but would also involve more people in political action.

Ultimately, if we are to make any headway on greenhouse (or any other important issue), more people must become involved.

Green Left Weekly urges its readers to contact the peak environment organisations and ask them to urgently organise public rallies and marches in all major cities to demand that the government commit itself at Kyoto to binding greenhouse gas reductions of 20% below 1990 levels by 2005. This is also the position of the Alliance of Small Island States.

Contact the Australian Conservation Foundation on (03) 9416 1166, the Wilderness Society on (02) 9552 2355, or ring the conservation council in your state.