Eco-activist spotlight: Beyond Zero Emissions

February 28, 2009

Green Left weekly's Kylie Moon spoke to Matt Wright from Beyond Zero Emissions, a Melbourne-based climate change activist group, about BZE's campaign strategy and current activities for 2009.

BZE formed in 2005 with the realisation that there was already too much carbon in the atmosphere and that we needed to draw it down. The formation of BZE led to the Zero Emission Network, of which BZE is a member and shares the same goals.

According to the BZE website: "we differ from mainstream environmental groups on one very important point — we believe that we have already allowed climate change to go too far, and must act immediately to reduce our levels of greenhouse gas emissions to zero and below."

Wright told GLW that BZE campaign activities have included "giving talks at the [annual] Sustainable Living Festival, regular activist meetings, and targeting pro-coal speakers.

"Successful [actions] have been [held] against Ziggy Switkowski. We have also targeted Tim Flannery and Peter Cook, both proponents of clean coal. We distribute alternative views, ask questions, and sometimes heckle. At the Tim Flannery meeting … five of the six questions asked were by BZE."

"BZE is developing Zero Carbon Plans, which are alternative blueprints to transform each section of the economy to zero carbon", he continued. The plans have included blueprints for stationary energy like coal-fired power plants, transport, and industrial processes such as cement and steel.

"The aim is to say that this is not a technological problem [stopping us from moving beyond our carbon economy] and to give other campaigners confidence to say we know it's possible. People who say 'be realistic' are mixing up technological and social-political problems. Past developments do not determine the future."

Wright went on to say "people need the confidence to say renewables in Spain are already providing power security — power for lights and life support, safely and securely".

BZE has a monthly talk series with guest expert speakers — present or via link-up. It also has two weekly radio programs that interview experts. These interviews are transcribed and used by activists in campaigning, and podcasts are posted on the BZE website.

BZE also sends out weekly media releases. Wright said the aim is to "create the media and be proactive not just reactive" to current issues.

He described BZE as a peak environment group but, unlike other peak groups, it is not focussed on fundraising and membership. BZE is a community-based activist group.

Wright spoke of the importance of not meeting with the government solely on its terms.

"Campaigners [have] made the mistake of watering-down demands. Allow the government to water it down. That's their job. That's the difference [between BZE and peak environment groups].

"We at BZE say how it is. There is absolutely no filter. We try to make it understandable, but if the Arctic sea ice is melting by 2013, then it's melting by 2013. We tell the bad news but we tell something good with it.

"We want to give people the confidence to take on the challenge."

BZE also supports the outcomes of the recent Climate Action Summit. Wright said he supports the climate movement's "distributed model, being loosely coordinated with hundreds of Climate Action Groups … creating a resilient movement. There are four or five networks, not just one peak group sending the message.

"It's quite organic, which is important to have when we're up against millions of dollars, up against Liberal, Labor and the coal industry. We need millions of people to match that. What we need to do is create one million people with strong views like us."

[For more information about BZE's campaigns and to access its podcasts, visit]

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