Climate conference slams Labor for supporting fossil fuel industry

July 31, 2023
The Sydney Climate Coalition conference was well-attended throughout the day. Photo: Peter Boyle

The Sydney Climate Coalition (SCC) organised a well-attended full-day conference on July 29 in Redfern Town Hall to discuss how to build a strong enough climate movement to force Labor to act.

Labor, elected on a promise it would take serious action on the climate, was really only being “performative”, keynote speaker Bill Hare said. Hare, a climate scientist and Climate Analytics CEO, said the science was already known: it is “politics” that needs to change.

“We now face a global temperature not previously seen for 120,000 years. What are we doing about it? A temperature rise approaching 1.5°C degrees already affects the whole world. Large areas of the planet would be uninhabitable if we reach 2.7°C degrees, where we are heading under current international policies.

“Where does Australia stand? The federal government’s commitment to net zero is not backed by specific policies … [it] is hell-bent on supporting new coal and gas projects. Instead, we need to become a green energy superpower.”

Polly Hemming, director of the Australia Institute Climate and Energy program, said such conferences are “critical” for sharing information.

“The inertia from our political leaders is terrifying,” she said before criticising Labor for saying that greenhouse emissions have fallen by 25%.

“Our emissions result is only based on domestic figures … [it does not] account for exports of coal and gas. Unlimited carbon offsets are issued instead of a real reduction in emissions.

“Climate change doesn’t care about accounting systems. Floods and fires are real. We must stop approving new fossil fuel projects.”

The struggles of First Nations people and unionists to defend land and country and workers’ interests in the transition to a green economy was addressed with a panel including Gadrian Hoosan, Garrwa community leader from the Gulf Country in the Northern Territory.

“We’re facing a lot of destruction on our land from mining, of gas and other minerals. But the politicians are hiding from us, and so are the mainstream media. To confront this, we urgently need to get our climate justice family back together again,” Hoosan said.

Gomeroi Traditional Custodian Karra Kinchela and an activist with Lock the Gate, from Narrabri in northwest NSW, spoke about the Gomeroi people’s struggle against Santos’ plans to expand coal seam gas (CSG) on their sacred lands.

Nathan Clements from the Hunter Jobs Alliance and an Amalgamated Manufacturing Union (AMWU) delegate said workers’ solidarity and climate justice go together. “A just transition to renewables must have real meaning: a framework towards transition means well-paid jobs and effective re-training for the new green economy.”

Allen Hicks, NSW/ACT secretary of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), said “If we’re going to bring coal and other mining communities with us, people need an alternative plan for the renewable economy.”

He said the ETU is pushing Labor to electrify the economy and believes that renewable energy projects should be publicly owned. “We fight to organise the solar and wind farm workers into unions. They need good conditions and the union movement as a whole needs to support the fight for a just transition.”

In the final session, Fahima Badrulhisham from Move Beyond Coal and Religious Response to Climate Change, elaborated on the campaign to stop the big four banks funding fossil fuels.

She said the movement’s recent success in forcing National Australia Bank (NAB) to stop funding the expansion of Whitehaven Coal opens the way for a campaign to stop all coal exports from Australia by 2030.

Cloud Flanagan from Blockade Australia, Paddy Gibson from Workers For Climate Action, Ethan Lyons, school striker and Wiradjuri activist and Bernie Hobbs from the Knitting Nannas also spoke.

The discussion touched on clarifying key challenges; spreading information about the work of various environment organisations; and building alliances between the different groups to have a chance of building the sort of powerful force capable of forcing a change in Labor’s policy.

[For more information visit Sydney Climate Coalition or email]


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