This morning, more than 2500 people encircled the Federal Parliament in the culmination of a three-day summit that brought together 150 climate action groups and environment organisations from around the country.

The message of this highly symbolic and powerful action was simple — that we are in the midst of a climate emergency, that the Rudd government (with its paltry 5% reduction target) is not acting fast enough to deal with the magnitude of the problem, and that we need to bring Australia’s C02 emissions to zero as rapidly as possible.

The timing of the green elements of the government’s stimulus package was therefore curious. Notwithstanding the fact that energy efficiency is a necessary element of the struggle against climate change, the “pink bats for the economy” strategy is not nearly enough when the polar ice caps are melting and Australia is in the grip of escalating temperature and continued drought.

Insulation for millions of homes is a good step, however it is only a small step, and it in no way matches the magnitude of the crisis. The government had an opportunity today to announce a massive uptake of renewable energy such as wind, solar and geo-thermal, but they have squandered it. Australia needs to create green jobs and cut our rising emissions from coal-fired electricity, transport and agriculture.

Unfortunately, under the framework of the appalling CPRS (which all of the groups at the summit have agreed to oppose), insulating people’s homes will only allow room for the big polluting industries like coal and aluminium to emit extra C02. The CPRS hands out a massive 7.4 billion dollars to dirty industries, and it will give those industries a property right in their pollution that will be all but impossible to take away over time, unless there is another massive cost to the taxpayer. Renewable energy needs this money, not big coal.

Today’s announcement is window dressing, with the announcement timed to take the wind out of the sails of the gathered people’s climate alliance outside the Parliament. The timing of the announcement was a cynical manoeuvre, but it didn’t work. The groups who participated in today’s action are highly motivated, focussed and organised, and they won’t stand for more tinkering. The action was a victory for the Australian people.

Peter Fray

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