Energy minister ‘arrested’ for crimes against the climate

Adelaide March for Survival, March 31. Photo: Gemma Weedall

A high-energy, loud and prominent rally marched through Adelaide’s central shopping mall on March 31 to show support for victims of extreme climate-change related weather events and demand real climate action. The event was Adelaide’s second annual “March for Survival”.

The march ended with a mock arrest of the state energy minister Tom Koutsantonis for “climate crimes”. The charges included ignoring the urgency of the climate science and failing to support plans for solar thermal technology in Port Augusta.

John Rice, spokesperson for event organiser Climate Emergency Action Network of South Australia (CLEAN), said: “We have the perfect opportunity here in South Australia, to replace the outdated coal-fired power stations in Port Augusta with concentrating solar thermal power, creating more jobs, healthier communities and putting South Australia on the map.

“Minister Koutsantonis is failing South Australia; instead of supporting the development of world-leading renewable technology, he wants to drill for shale gas in the Great Artesian Basin – risking water contamination, regional job losses and high emissions, as well as tying South Australians to ever rising gas prices.''

Attempts by various organisations and individuals to engage with the minister on the proposal for solar thermal power in Port Augusta have been met with apathy and hostility.

A vigil was held at the start of the event to commemorate the lives lost around the world as a result of extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent and dangerous as a result of climate change.

Ingo Weber of Doctors for the Environment spoke about the urgent health problems associated with coal and gas, as well as the wider health implications of a warming world.

Weber said: “According to our national and international medical communities, as well as the World Health Organisation, climate change is the biggest single public health threat of this century ... 400,000 people die each year because of the effects of a changing climate.

“From a medical perspective, switching from coal to gas is like switching from smoking unfiltered to filtered cigarettes. It is negligent for the health of our community and the global community to continue on using coal and gas-fired power stations when real healthy alternatives such as baseload solar thermal, wind energy and many others are available to us to use right now.”

Dan Spencer from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition spoke about the need to build a mass movement for a safe climate and the importance of the ongoing campaign to build concentrating solar thermal power in Port Augusta.

Melbourne-based research group Beyond Zero Emissions has developed a report detailing the potential to transition to concentrating solar thermal and wind power in Port Augusta.

The report will be launched in Adelaide on April 19 at 7pm at the University of Adelaide, Napier Building, Lecture Theatre 102. It will be launched in Port Augusta on April 21 at 2pm at the Cooinda Club.

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