Climate change is the biggest threat to our future, and coal is the biggest cause of climate change, yet right now there are plans for 12 new coal or gas-fired power stations around Australia.
In this context, the Camp for Climate Action is taking place over December 1-5 at Liddell recreation area in the Hunter Valley, a little over an hour inland from Newcastle.
The camp will take place near Liddell and Bayswater coal-fired power stations and in the sprawling moonscape of massive coalmines in the area.
The location was chosen to protest against the NSW Labor government’s approval of a new 2000 megawatt power station: “Bayswater B”. Despite claims it could be run on gas, in reality it will almost certainly be run on coal.
There are important reasons why people should attend climate camp.
Firstl to support the Greens and independents in federal parliament negotiate a carbon tax and associated climate policy. The Greens and independents may cave-in and support relatively weak policy put forward by the Labor minority government.
If this happens, the Greens and independents need to be pressured not to support “middle of the road” climate policies, which are not consistent with the difficult but urgent task of stopping runaway climate change.
Alternatively, Greens policy supporting an interim carbon tax and a move to 100% renewables suggests that the party is committed to the cause and may not settle for half measures. Independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie have also indicated they support a rollout of renewable energy.
The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 plan to get Australia onto 100% renewable energy in a decade has major wind and solar plants slated either in or immediately adjacent to the three independents’ electorates. The plan would create a massive amount of both immediate and permanent jobs for rural Australia.
In either case, it is essential to mobilise for climate camp in large numbers — whether to hold the Greens and independents to account or to back up their push for real action.
The camp will be held at Liddell because the NSW government this year gave “concept approval” to a massive new coal-fired power station to be built there. This flies in the face of the need for steep cuts in carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, the NSW government is trying to ram through a part privatisation of the electricity industry before the March 2011 state elections.
Climate camp is about supporting the full public ownership of electricity generation and a transition plan to allow workers to get out of coal-fired power and into other skilled employment.
The camp provides an important opportunity for city-based climate campaigners to link up with rural activists trying to stop the massive expansion of the coal industry from destroying their air and water.
City activists can break through the abstract nature of climate campaigning by linking up with like-minded activists “at the coal face” of confronting the industry.
In turn, rural activists have an opportunity to form stronger links with the wider network of supportive grassroots activists based in the cities to strengthen their campaigns.
Climate camp is timed to coincide with the Cancun climate summit in Mexico, the follow-up to the Copenhagen talkfest that produced no global agreement to cut emissions despite the urgency of doing so.
The Hunter Valley Climate Camp is one among many grassroots climate protests that will be happening around the world in response to the Cancun summit. These protests carry a simple and powerful message: Climate change knows no borders and neither does the global grassroots climate action movement.
Rather than looking to unrepresentative governments and hoping for action, the international wave of protests against the Cancun talkfest seek to force this vitally important issue onto the political agenda.
Finally, climate camp is an opportunity for climate activists to engage with people from coal-affected communities and show that the movement is not calling for the industry to be shut down “overnight”. The movement supports a transition to alternative employment that protects the livelihoods of workers and communities, and ensures they will be healthy and sustainable communities long after coal is gone.
It is also an opportunity to engage with community members about how to refine our climate campaigns.
Climate camp is open to everyone. The five days of workshops, networking and dialogue will culminate in a major protest on December 5.
[For more information and to register, visit www.climatecamp.org.au .]