People power to fight climate change

June 21, 2009

Jess Moore, Socialist Alliance member and national coordinator of Resistance, gave the following speech to the June 13 Wollongong Climate Emergency Rally.

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According to Sydney Morning Herald columnist Miranda Divine, on June 13, "the real religious nutters are the green zealots who are hell bent on destroying farming and mining for the sake of, at best, a miniscule environmental benefit".

Well, Miranda, climate change poses the greatest threat to humanity we have ever faced.

At risk of sounding like a catastrophist: key climate tipping points are being reached now. If these points are crossed, the planet will keep getting hotter, regardless of anything we do, regardless of cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. We'll be locked into runaway global warming, resulting in an uninhabitable planet.

Scientists think that at most we've got a decade, maybe a decade-and-a-half, before climate change becomes irreversible and a bleak future becomes reality.

Meanwhile, our government fiddles around the edges and makes proposals like the dangerous and misleadingly named Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).

Our government has the arrogance to think it can negotiate with the laws of physics and chemistry, in the interests of big business, rather than make the changes that science dictates.

There is no more urgent cause than the struggle for climate safety. It is the world's poor who will suffer the most. Not only do the poor largely live in the most low-lying areas, and are more reliant on industries susceptible to changes in the climate, the poor are the least protected, less able to cope because they are hamstrung by poverty.

We simply can't afford to not make the changes that the planet needs.

And Australia — one of the world's wealthiest countries — must lead the way.

So the question before us is: How do we ensure a safe climate?

Sentiment that climate change is a problem that requires urgent and dramatic action is widespread, yet — apart from a lot of lip service — action is happening slowly, if at all.

How do we ensure that this mass sentiment is turned into action?

The CPRS makes the individual changes that people make in their homes redundant. For any amount individuals reduce their emissions by, the government increases the allowable emissions big polluters can make. This same CPRS hands over $9 billion to the worst polluters and allows them to buy permits from overseas, meaning emissions could even increase under the scheme.

The CPRS is the result of lobbying: under-resourced environment lobbyists versus coal industry lobbyists who have the power to bankroll mainstream political parties and candidates, or choose not to. On this playing field, those who have the most money win.

So what power do we have?

We've got people; lots and lots of people, and the power to scare the pants off the government.

And we people work. We run the power stations and the steelworks, the ports and the mines. We have to demand government investment in new, clean and sustainable industries.

While the government is busy telling workers that any action on climate change will hurt jobs and the economy, we need to build a mass movement to counter this lie. The fact is, we need to demand, the development of whole new industries with new jobs to replace the unsuitable ones we must necessarily do away with. The scale of change needed will mean more, not less, jobs.

The battle for a safe climate can be won only with the mass of working people on our side — not relying on representatives who say one thing and do another — but acting on our own behalf, together.

Today's rally was organised by a small group of people. Who here could not only come to the next, but help organise it? Who here could help to turn mass sentiment into mass action?

Governments will not simply change their minds — we have to force them to! We can and we must! We have nothing to lose but the planet, and we have a planet to win!

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