Letter From Australia

September 9, 2008

Our friend, mentor and fellow youth climate organiser Anna Rose just posted a really important post on It’s Getting Hot In Here. I wanted to share it with you, and she was kind enough to let me re-post it here.

It’s important because it shows that although some things knock us down, we have to get right back up, put hope and perseverence on like we would our clothes and continue to fight for what is right.

Chin up, Anna. We can do this :)

It is with a mix of despair, desperation and defiance that I read the news reports as they roll into my inbox and my computer screen this morning. Professor Ross Garnaut, the government’s chief climate change advisor, seems to have made a last-minute decision to recommend action based not on what the science demands, but what he judges the rest of the world will do, or not do.

He has decided we don’t have much of a chance of solving climate change because, “It is too complex. The special interests are too numerous, powerful and intense.” He recommends that Australia should pursue a global climate deal that – even he admits – puts the world at risk of the disastrous climate change consequences he set out in his draft report.

He says Australia should basically not bother fighting for my future and that of my friends, and certainly not the futures of my children or grandchildren, because “Is the international community ready to commit itself to such a strong outcome? Not yet.”

So – the international community isn’t ready (in his opinion) for aiming below 450 parts per million, so let’s not try because it will cost us too much if we take strong action alone, is essentially what he’s saying. Professor Garnaut – if your son John was at direct risk of being wiped out by the floods devastating Bihar in India right now, would you apply the same logic?

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes as I read his report and the news reaction. Aptly, I’ve come home to Newcastle for the weekend – the world’s biggest coal export port – and there is a crazy storm going on outside. Maybe it’s the planet’s reaction to Garnaut’s rubbish recommended target of 450 parts per million carbon in the atmosphere. This recommendation, and his corresponding target of 10% reduction by 2020 from 2000 levels, is so low that, as Crikey says, “the sea level will rise above it in a year”.

But now is no time for despair, despite Garnaut’s seemingly best efforts to demoralize the entire climate movement and give our government – a government elected in the world’s first climate election – an excuse to do nothing while the world’s future goes down the drain.

I can’t help but feel we should have done more this year to pressure Garnaut. I guess I’ll always feel that, even though we all work non-stop, to the point of risking our health, our friendships and anything in our lives outside climate activism. I mean, it’s 7 am on a Saturday morning and I’m already working.

But we still have time – a small but precious window of time – to influence the federal government to adopt the strongest 2020 reduction targets that are politically possible. And luckily, “politically possible” is not what Garnaut judges it to be, but the political situation that we ourselves create.

And that is why I have hope that the youth climate movement can be the one input in this crazy political system that still has the potential to change everything. And when 5,000 young people converge on Canberra, to our Parliament House, next April for Power Shift Australia, we are going to re-frame the debate and place ourselves, and our futures, in the middle of it. And when we launch this massive national youth climate campaign in the next few months, it will be impossible for any Australian – let alone any politician – to ignore the fact that young Australians will not let anyone get away with setting a target of only 10% reductions by 2020. Because that target lacks courage, vision, and any credibility with our generation.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports and we all know, “In the past two months an intense lobbying campaign by Australia’s major greenhouse gas polluters has already threatened to gut the Rudd Government’s climate change plans. From Don Voelte, the head of Woodside, to Don Argus, chairman of BHP Billiton, the nation’s heavy hitters have taken aim at plans to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and push Australia to produce 20 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.”

This is what we’re up against and we shouldn’t fool ourselves. It will take a massive grassroots organising campaign to win this struggle, just as that is what it has taken to win every struggle in history. It will take the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, it will take GetUp, it will take the Australian Student Environment Network, every NGO in Australia, and all the tools in our toolbox. It’s everyone’s opportunity – and responsibility – to step up.

So, please read Garnaut’s report, and the news analysis, but remember that while Garnaut has given up hope, I have not, and neither has the rest of the youth climate movement, and we need your help to back us up on this and stop climate chaos.

This is Anna :)

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