It's a climate emergency

On February 27, while media focused on parliamentary debate on penalty rates, another event of great significance to the well-being of all Australians quietly unfolded in the Parliament House forecourt.

By Margaret Hender, Climate Emergency Declaration Member Action Group, SA Greens
Friday, April 7, 2017

It's time to stop the madness and declare a Climate Emergency

Politicians of various political persuasions assembled in the forecourt of Parliament House for the interim handover of the Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation petition, along with several engineers, a former coal executive, a kayak adventurer, and various climate campaigners.

The petition asks the Australian Parliament to declare a climate emergency and implement climate solutions at the scale and speed necessary to protect all people, species and ecosystems. This interim handover was of just the first 18,101 signatures — the campaign continues with a goal of reaching 100,000 petition signatures.

Former Liberal leader John Hewson was there, although sadly not representing the Liberal party. Pat Conroy MP represented Bill Shorten, and Adam Bandt MP along with Senators Rhiannon and Rice represented the Greens.

Handing over the Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation petition was Steve Posselt, a Fellow of Engineers Australia. He had just completed a gruelling eight-week kayak trip from Ballina in northern NSW to Canberra, collecting petition signatures along the way.

Priorities, people

Penalty rates were the big story that week, but climate impacts are already killing people and destroying ecosystems. Every time our government approves a new coal, oil, or gas project, they are putting all Australians in greater peril. Every day they fail to begin a very rapid but orderly transition to a fossil-fuel free society they are failing to act in the interests of we, the people.

Perhaps Steve was a little mad to kayak 1,200km in support of a petition. Or perhaps it is all of us, the Australian public, who are mad for allowing our government to get away with blatantly putting us all in peril. We already have the solutions. We already know how rapidly we need to not just lower carbon emissions but reduce atmospheric carbon to a safe level.

An Emergency Declaration is not just words. When an emergency is declared, measures that otherwise might be politically impossible suddenly become possible for the duration of the emergency. In times of war, nations throw out business-as-usual assumptions and direct as much as possible of public and private resources at tackling the threat to the well-being of their citizens. Our governments could, and should, do that again right now in response to the even greater threat that is the climate emergency.

As Adam Bandt commented at the petition handover event, when the Global Financial Crisis struck, the world found trillions of dollars in a very short time to bail out the banks. If a climate emergency were declared, we could indeed find the money to deal with it.

At the ready

Australians are great at rising to the challenge when faced with an emergency. We already have the technology and we know most of what we need to do to reverse the climate emergency. Over 18,000 Australians have already signed the petition demanding that our government act at sufficient scale and speed to protect us all. But as Steve said as he handed the box of petition sheets to Adam, "This is just the start".

It's time to stop the madness and demand that our elected representatives treat us in the way we deserve.

Five of our federal Greens elected representatives have signed the petition or a statement of support, as have five federal Labor MPs, but a huge show of public support is necessary before they can propose an emergency declaration and mobilisation bill in Parliament.

Please encourage members of your local branch, family, friends, and people in your networks to sign. People from all walks of life have been more than happy to sign, and we suspect many more would be equally happy to join in, but they can't sign if they don't know this petition exists!

Sign the petition now

Margaret Hender on behalf of the Climate Emergency Declaration Member Action Group (CEDMAG), SA Greens