Climate Action Summit participants speak

Issue 

Green Left Weekly's Simon Butler asked a number of activists present at Australia's Climate Action Summit why they attended and why they thought it was so important.

Katherine, Bondi, New South Wales

"I've got two young kids and I've just come to the conclusion that we all have to get active to do what we can about climate change. It's all very well to sit in our lounge rooms, feeling worried and anxious and whatever, but it's really great to come together with such a large group of people from all around Australia.

"The commitment that people have shown to come together and speak with one voice has been very encouraging. It's been quite moving."

Graham Brown, Hunter Environment Lobby

"I see the opening of parliament, which is coinciding with this summit, as the time to spread the message and act meaningfully to get a sane world. No environment, no economy."

Simon Hookley, Otway Ranges Climate Action

"I'm not sure people not involved are really aware that most people here are really the tip of an iceberg of a whole lot of other people. I am kind of standing in for about 500 other people. I know there are lots of other people here who are standing in for many more than that.

"It's not just about influencing government. It's also about joining up together, sharing stories, comparing notes, swapping ideas and learning from each other."

Janet Rice, Western Climate Action Network, Melbourne

"I think it's been so inspiring to be here with a group of 500 people who are all passionate and committed about some really radical things and who know that if we are going to achieve the changes we want to achieve we've got to have hundreds of thousands of Australians. It really give me hope. And we need hope."

Misra Ajera, Climate Action Canberra

"I think the first [thing] that has come out of this is a cohesive voice, so that we can walk together out of this as a united front [for] what we want — our demands for the country and the government, and the planet. It helps knowing where we're headed because too often people think environmentalists spend too much time arguing about targets and it's not about that. We now all know that we are after a safe climate and that there are better ways of doing things than arguing about targets."

Karen Cieri, Darwin

"At first, I thought I would come here and hear what everyone's about and take that back [to Darwin]. Being here, I have found that, actually, we can be part of working through people's ideas, passions and differences, so we actually are speaking with one voice. So I thought I would come here to be simply informed, but now I find we are able to find consensus on what we all agree on and find that unity. It's been quite amazing."

Daniel McNamara, Australian Youth Climate Coalition

"I think this summit is pretty unprecedented actually in getting a nationwide focus on climate change. It's really inspiring to see how many people do care about the issue and coming together like this, especially on the first day of parliament in the year when so many decisions are going to made. I think it's a very politically effective kind of thing to be doing as well."

Anne O'Brien, Climate Action Canberra

"This is a popular summit and I believe in people power and I've seen a lot of exciting plenaries where people have deliberated together and made decisions together. There's a sense of euphoria in actually being able to move forward together.

"I always value these spaces because they are very rare and when you see them happen you really gain motivation and you realise what a people's movement is all about."

Stephen Darley, Climate Emergency Action Network, Adelaide

"Why I'm here is because I think that building a grassroots climate action emergency network is absolutely essential. We can't rely on governments and we certainly can't rely on business and we can't rely on the peak groups either because they are too compromised by money and old politics. So grassroots, from the bottom-up, is the only way to really make a difference in Australia and around the world."

Andrew Rice, national co-organiser, Resistance

"I'm here to take part in this awesome nationwide discussion we're having here at the moment about trying to coordinate our climate work and be the most effective movement we can be to make the necessary steps to stop drastic climate change."

Colin Sager, South East Forest Conservation Alliance, NSW

"We're particularity interested in forests and green carbon and the role it plays in eliminating the huge climate change disaster we've got at the moment. We've got a living planet that is deeply in trouble because of all the things we have been doing to it over past few hundred years. The many ways to fix that include technical fixes, but they certainly include looking after the living organism that is the planet."

Matthew Wright, Beyond Zero Emissions

"With 550 people committing themselves to three or four days with an intensive summit program, and a day of action at Parliament House, we're really kicking off the year with what's required to face a global crisis. This global crisis is underpinned by what we are seeing with the rapid melting of the Arctic ice."

Elena Ortega, People for a Safe Climate, Sydney

"I'm here because there is a convergence of people concerned about climate change and they want to do something about it. Over the three days, there was a combination of workshops and information sessions and also a focus on working together on campaigns and developing policy."

Wendy Morrison, People for a Safe Climate, Sydney

"I've come along because a 5% emissions target is bloody ridiculous and I'd like to try and do something to help the government see [that] they need to take a more serious look at this issue because what they have done is not appropriate."

Mark Andrews, Climate Emergency Action Network, Adelaide

"I'm here because I'm concerned about the future for the human race and our biosphere and all living things on this planet. There's a great urgency in fixing our climate problem, if we can fix it. I'm hopeful, but I'm certainly not confident that we can do it. So I'm quite worried and I have young children so I have a very emotional investment in it all."

Gemma Weedall, University of Adelaide environment collective

"I've come over from Adelaide for this conference here in Canberra. I'm really proud to be part of the climate action movement because we're fighting for the future of everyone in the world and for our own future. We're facing a climate emergency so it's really important that we act urgently."

Peter Campbell, Lighter Footprints Climate Change Action Group, Victoria

"Prior to the summit, there was two days with the Australian Forest and Climate Alliance. Forest campaigners from all around Australia met to reiterate the importance of protecting our old-growth forest carbon stores that are currently logged and contributing to climate change.

"But in this climate summit, as well as protecting forests, we're also saying we need a rapid transition to renewable energy, 100% renewables by 2020. We're also saying the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme at the moment needs to be scrapped, or greatly revised. It will not reduce emissions in its current form.

"The third major focus of the summit was getting the government to take a responsible position to Copenhagen to ensure a safe climate future. For that, we're asking them to lock in a position of 300 parts per million carbon in the atmosphere and it's critical for Australia to take a leadership role."