Thousands demand climate change action

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Thousands of people across Australia are taking part in protests calling on the Federal Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The 'Walk Against Warming' is part of an international day of action in 40 countries, coinciding with the United Nations climate change talks in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Participation in the Kyoto Protocol. Dark green indicates countries that have signed and ratified the treaty. Australia and the United States have signed but, currently, decline to ratify it.

According to the Walk Against Warming group, "the need to reduce greenhouse gases is at crisis point, we must act now for the sustainability of our planet for future generations."

Melinda Cook, Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales official, says governments need to take much stronger action on the issue of Climate Change.

"This international day has been called to put pressure on Australia and the US to ratify and to make sure governments are aware that the community is demanding serious commitments and action on greenhouse gas reduction," said Cook.

Siding with the United States, the Australian Federal Government has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, arguing it is damaging to their economic interests. Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell says Australia is focused on measures that should be taken after Kyoto expires in 2012.

"We need to do something that suits the developed world, something that suits the rapidly developing world, partnerships, technologies, economic mechanisms that drive us towards that," said Campbell. "We're nowhere near that at the moment and Australia wants to be a constructive part of driving us towards a very useful post-Kyoto regime."

Protesters across Australia are using the International Day of Action on Climate Change to demand the government adopt a clean energy policy. Hundreds of people marched through Sydney on Saturday to mark the day.

The protest against global warming coincides with the 12-day conference in Montreal, which will discuss climate change measures and future international action when the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012. Australia and the United States are the only western industrialised nations which refuse to ratify the global Kyoto Protocol. Australia has delegates at the Montreal meeting, but will only act as observers.

Melinda Cook said scientists had predicted huge negative consequences including extreme weather and even social and economic impacts if steps were not taken now. Cook also said governments must make a "serious commitment" not to build any more coal fire powered stations.

The United States Bush administration and the Australian Howard Government have refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement, which pledges industrialised nations to cut carbon dioxide levels to 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

Global Action

Up to a million people will take to the streets of more than 100 cities across dozens of countries today to demand greater action on global warming. Organizers of the protests say the world's leading industrialised nations had failed to make an impact on climate change and some, in particular Britain, were backsliding on their environmental commitments.

The United Nations meeting in Montreal, will be attended by representatives of 189 countries. The centerpiece of the International Day of Climate Protest will be a mass protest in Montreal, where at least 15,000 people are expected to lobby delegates.

Across the planet, protests are being held in locations from Helsinki to Seoul. In Washington, drivers of fuel-efficient hybrid cars will rally around the White House. In New Orleans - devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August - there will be a "Stop Global Warming" street party in the French Quarter.

"There is probably very little we can expect [from Montreal] because we are doing nothing to keep fossil fuel in the ground. All these techno-fixes are a waste of time if we continue to burn fossil fuel at the same rate," said George Monbiot, an academic and environment commentator, who will address a rally in London.

"There is a lot of cynicism about what the British government is doing. [Prime Minister] Tony Blair has promised much and persuaded many that he will deliver but it has turned out to be rubbish. Blair had no intention of doing anything on climate change other than talk about it. But this weekend's protests are taking place in a changed context - the media are listening and finally we have to make the politicians listen."

  • Countries taking part in the global day of action include: Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Uganda, United States, Venezuela...