Last year, school students gave an electric shock to the climate movement when they walked off school for climate action.

They went further than the existing campaigns—for example against Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine—and went to the heart of the issue. We have 11 years to limit the worst impacts of climate change; we need a zero carbon economy and that means building renewable power and stopping all coal and gas expansions.

Students decried the Liberals who still refuse to back any climate policy whatsoever, and mocked their climate denial.

This should be a wake-up call for every workplace and university. We need a climate movement built around solid demands on the government for renewable energy, and we need to step up to force real action now.

Demands for real change

With a likely Shorten government waiting in the wings, we need clear demands. Labor at least have a climate policy, and Shorten is unlikely to take lumps of coal into parliament to prove his allegiance to the coal industry. It will take more than anger at the Liberals to keep up the fight.

Labor’s National Energy Guarantee only proposes regulation on energy retailers. But coal stations—all built by the government—and gas currently provide 85 per cent of power. They need to be closed down as soon as possible. Labor would allow them to keep operating until their 50 year lifespan is up, meaning there would still be coal plants operating 30 years from now. Changing that will take direct government investment in publicly owned renewable power.

This means least 130,000 green jobs in construction, manufacturing, operations and management to get to 100 per cent renewable energy in ten years. On top of that we need jobs on the front line, fighting increased risk of fires, and guaranteeing water to communities like Walgett currently experiencing dire water shortages.

To have any hope of a transition to a zero carbon economy, we need a climate movement built around real demands for green jobs now, for direct government investment in 100 per cent renewable energy, and for an end to all new coal and gas. These demands need to be taken up at our universities and workplaces, as activists build the strength to walk off with the school students on 15 March.

By Daniel Cotton

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