I am an Australian. Which is quite an admission in these halls at the moment.
People keep coming up to me and asking what’s going on? Why is my government doing such terrible things on climate policy? Why are they so addicted to coal? Why are they so determined to go backwards? How can they trash their climate policies when the rest of the world is meeting here in Warsaw to try and move forward on climate? And particularly when our neighbouring countries, especially the Philippines, are suffering such devastation.
But the main question they ask me is - do the Australian people support all of this negativity and destruction?
The answer to that question is they categorically do not. The majority of Australian people do not support repealing the carbon price, trashing renewable energy support, dismantling the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and winding back support for a long-term target of reducing carbon pollution by 80% by 2050.
If you want evidence of that look no further than the story of Australia’s Climate Commission. One of the first things the new government did was shut down this publicly funded body. But within only one week, over 20,000 Australians donated to get this vital organization back on its feet.
Ordinary Australians are keen for action on climate change because we’ve lived through its beginnings. We’ve seen “one in a hundred year floods” happen in Queensland twice in a period of just twelve months. And in the same period Queensland copped it with Cyclone Yasi – the worst cyclone in nearly 100 years. We’ve had the worst drought ever within the last decade – and parts of the country are in drought again. In Sydney, where I live, we just had devastating bushfires, in October – mid Spring! But of course none of this comes close to the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
Recent polling showed that the majority of Australians want a higher target (15% or 25%), as our country’s independent Climate Change Authority recommended. And 65% of people said they wanted stronger action on climate change.
The Coalition that Prime Minister Abbott leads have a long-standing policy of supporting this target range, set back in 2009, along with the conditions for moving up the range. We need immediate clarification from our the government on where they now stand.
Most Australians know it’s in our national interest to get serious about climate change. Not only because we along with so many of our neighbours are so vulnerable to climate change, but also because unless we increase our target and take more action, we’re in danger of falling behind the rest of the world.
So listen up, Prime Minister Abbott. We’re expecting you to come to the Ban Ki-moon Summit in September 2014. We’re expecting you to put a real target for 2020 on the table, along with long term goals for mitigation and climate finance that reflect Australia’s fair share. And we Australians will be pushing every day to make sure you do this. Starting this Sunday – where Australians in every corner of the country will be at a National Day of Action (www.theheat.org.au).
(This is an edited version of a statement by Julie-Anne Richards at yesterday’s CAN press conference.)