Climate summit a chance to refocus the movement

Late this month the first national summit of climate action groups will be held in Canberra.

Only a few years ago mainstream debate on climate change still revolved around whether the threat was real.

Today climate change is a mainstream issue—it even helped bring Kevin Rudd to power. Tackling it has moved to the centre of the new government’s agenda. But this shift also means the climate movement needs to reorient to deal with the new situation. The climate summit is a timely initiative to help bring this about.

The idea of “taking action” could mobilise huge numbers in 2007 when Howard was refusing to even sign Kyoto.

By contrast Kevin Rudd squarely admits the need for action. His government claims to be acting to address climate change. This means clear demands pointing to the limitations of Labor’s climate strategy are necessary.

The movement must spell out that its carbon trading scheme is incapable of making the cuts in emissions required. Many in the movement want to oppose only the worst elements of Rudd’s scheme, such as the handouts of free permits to the big polluters and the low emissions reduction targets.

But trying to get Rudd to deliver a more effective version of carbon trading is a mistake. The reason so many governments around the world are enthusiastic about carbon trading schemes is that they are a way of avoiding any serious effort to reduce emissions while giving the appearance of action (see above).

We need to spell out what solutions will work to significantly reduce emissions. Governments have the power to simply shut down coal fired power stations and build renewable energy. Government built the snowy-hydro scheme, it could be building wind farms now.

The movement needs to articulate that its goals won’t be won through lobbying politicians. There are powerful vested interests preventing action.

Large demonstrations are both highly visible and give participants a sense of their collective strength. Combined with mass civil disobedience they can begin to build the kind of movement we will need to force serious action.

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