Australia Power Shifting

by Aaron Packard

The global climate movement has made some big gains in the last couple of weeks thanks to the effort of organisers in Australia.

You might have heard that just last week, the Australian Lower House of Parliament passed a landmark package of legislation to enact a price on carbon. The legislation now only has to make it past the Senate, which because the Greens hold the balance of power is almost certainly guaranteed. Part of the package includes $10 billion for the establishment of the “Clean Energy Finance Corporation” – in a bid to accelerate the deployment and investment in clean energy projects.18

The conservative opposition party tried everything it could to bring down the legislation – through a bitter campaign laden with misleading information and lies. But to Julia Gillard’s (the Prime Minister) credit she has stood by the legislation every step of the way despite the immense politcal cost and loss of popularity in the polls. It also took a tremendous effort from the climate movement to keep the legislation on track.

And while this legislation is an important step in tackling climate change, it’s still a long way off redemption for Australia, which currently holds the title as the world’s highest per-capita polluter of greenhouse gasses. Yet, I left Australia yesterday with a sense of hope – despite the deeply polarised politics and the deeper urgency for even bolder emission reductions than the legislation offers.

I left hopeful because the youth climate movement in Australia is powerful. Just this past weekend, 1000 young people gathered in Brisbane for Powershift Australia, 2011. It wasn’t just the sheer number of participants that impressed me, but it was also the grounded, focused and dedicated way in which it was organised by the Australian Youth Climate Coaltion (or AYCC for short). The AYCC were a key partner organisation in Australia for Moving Planet, and previous 350 days of action.

20On the last day of Powershift the AYCC launched a new campaign – Repower Australia – which will see the network of 70,000+ supporters mobilise around renewable energy solutions in communities throughout every state of Australia. It’s impressive grassroots organising, and it’s exactly this scale and intensity that we need if we are to have any hope of getting back to 350ppm.

I had the honour of speaking about the global movement at the closing plenary of Powershift. The message was simple – that as these young organisers step back into their local communities and get organising Repower events, they can know that the thousands and thousands of people in the global climate movement are with them every step of the way. Together we’re ready to sprint to a 350ppm future. Thank you Australia!

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