Organising groups in all states are preparing for upcoming climate change rallies around World Environment Day, likely to be Saturday June 13. The rallies are part of four national mobilisations this year called by the Climate Action Summit.
Protests like Walk Against Warming have drawn very big crowds in the past. It can’t be doubted that there is massive public concern about climate change. The need for the movement to mobilise this concern has never been more pertinent.
Responding to the CPRS
The Rudd government’s central piece of legislation for dealing with the climate crisis, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, has been rightly called “worse than nothing”.
There is a pressing need to cut against the idea that the Rudd government is taking action on climate change. It is certainly a main cause of the gap between widespread concern about the issue and numbers involved in the movement. That gap can only be bridged by convincing those that think Rudd is taking action that the CPRS won’t work, and of the need to get involved in a movement that is fighting for what will.
The Sydney World Environment Day organising committee has decided to have no public demands about the CPRS, arguing we need demands with “broader appeal”. Many activists have said, rightly, that the details of the CPRS are not widely known. But our goal should be to change that fact, not accept it as a fait accompli. We can’t build a movement by dodging the central political question of the day.
If the CPRS becomes law it will be a setback for the movement. The Australian Industry Group is now backing the CPRS, even though they want its introduction delayed, because they understand that concern on climate change isn’t going away and the alternative to the CPRS would be actual industry regulation. If the CPRS passes it will be harder to get that regulation.
100 per cent by 2020
As well as responding to “false solutions” like the CPRS, it is important to be clear about what our alternative is. There was also a debate in Sydney over the demand “100% renewable energy by 2020” which came out of the Climate Action Summit. Activists were told that “potential sponsors and allies” wouldn’t support the protests with if the “2020” demand is included, because they don’t think it is achievable. Many opposed dropping the demand because they saw it, correctly, as a concession to the “business as usual” approach to please the powers that be. The argument against the 2020 demand represented a retreat from the Climate Action Summit’s recognition of what is needed and what is technically possible if there is political will from the government.
Holding The Greens accountable
The Greens have said they will oppose the legislation “in its current form”. A recent Australian Greens National Council motion “calls on the Rudd Government to rethink its plans to allocate compensation on the basis of lobbying power rather than sound economic theory and environmental policy.” This amounts to tinkering with the scheme rather than outright rejection. The Greens are concerned that they could be seen to be blocking action on climate change if they vote against the CPRS. But we desperately need a clear political leadership arguing for emissions reduction action that will actually work.
A strong movement that is against the CPRS and for just alternatives can help put pressure on The Greens to do this.
We can’t get the action we need on climate change by attempting to tinker with unjust solutions, making compromises or relying on parliamentary representatives. There is no negotiating with climate change.
We need to make it politically impossible for the CPRS legislation to be passed by building mass public opposition to the scheme and for government action. We can show this power most effectively by putting the energy of all climate activists together to build protests like World Environment Day.
Uranium mining at Jabiluka was stopped by a mass public campaign that involved consistent mobilisations in the cities, particularly with regualur blockades aimed at shutting down the office of mining company North Ltd, and an orientation towards trade union support. We should be looking at how we can build the same.
By Chris Breen and Amy Thomas