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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Australians send a climate message to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

A huge crowd estimated in news reports at 40,000 people, participated in the Walk against Warming in Melbourne to send a message to Australian Climate Change Minister Senator Penny Wong and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the Copenhagen COP15 UN Climate Change conference. Around the globe ( people protested for an ambitious , fair and binding climate treaty, many calling for higher emission reduction targets to stabilise carbon in the atmosphere at 350ppm to avoid dangerous climate change.

Photos: Melbourne (Flickr) | Youtube videos Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide

In Sydney an estimated 15,000 people marched from Martin Place to the Botanical Gardens. They chanted "Climate Treaty Now - Don't Ditch Kyoto" for a video screened in Copenhagen.

Brisbane's King George Square was a sea of banners and protest slogans with an estimated 10,000 people. Organisers extended the route at the last minute to accommodate the large turnout.

Thousands of people rallied at Adelaide's Rymill Park after marching through the city.

Rallies were also held in Tasmania's Upper Florentine Valley, Perth, and many regional towns such as Geelong, Newcastle and Wollongong.

In Melbourne Spokeswoman Tricia Phelan said "It's vital that in the coming week our world leaders make a commitment on climate change," she said.

"We need a strong commitment and a commitment that looks like rich countries like Australia slashing our emissions, and helping to fund poorer countries to develop in a cleaner way, and avoid the mistake that we've made." she told ABC news.

Two Firefighters who were involved in the Black Saturday (Feb 7, 2009) devastating fires that killed 173 people spoke at the rally at the Melbourne State Library, linking the extreme catastrophic fires to extreme fire weather conditions and climate change.

Tuvalu woman speaking on the climate threat her culture and nation face
The rally in Melbourne heard from Leah, a 24 year old Australian citizen from Tuvalu who gave a an account of the frontline of climate change on the atolls of Tuvalu which supports a population of 12,000 people with the highest point above sea level at 1 metre.

Her speech in full:

Today I am talking on behalf of Make Poverty History.

Climate change is happening. It is real. We don't have time to argue with skeptics. While we waste time debating in our parliament and in our media, millions of the world's most vulnerable and poor people are being hit hard by it's effects despite being the least responsible.

I know this, I was born in Tuvalu. It is a small nation of 9 low lying atolls. At only 1 metre above sea level we are feeling the effects of the rising tides and the changing weather patterns.

Our food crops are being destroyed by saltwater seeping up through the coral, and the king tides that wash across our small atolls are becoming more common and increasingly severe. This threatens our local food supply and our ability to live off the land.

For us, continuing with business as usual means that within the next 10 to 20 years our land will become uninhabitable and our population of 12,000 people will be forced to relocate. This threatens our identity, our culture and our very existence. We are not the only ones. All over the world countries are being affected by climate change. Only in poor countries where money and resources are scarce it is difficult to adapt.

It is estimated that the number of people affected by climate related disasters is likely to increase by 54 per cent to 375 million people in the next 6 years. And while the poor suffer rich countries like Australia do nothing for fear that in reducing emissions it will hinder economic growth. For Tuvalu this is not a question of economics. It is a question of survival, of injustice, of human rights. This is life and death.

In Australia our Government refuses to respond with the urgency and leadership required to halt climate change and turn this around. We need to commit to reducing our emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. We need to apply substantial funding to support affected countries in adapting to climate change and to develop a low carbon pathway and to a sustainable future.

Copenhagen must deliver a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate deal to prevent catastrophic climate change and minimise the affect on poor countries.

The Australian Government is supposed to represent its people, and we are not being represented. We need to send a strong message that we will not stand for this inaction any longer.

There is hope for Tuvalu and for all nations affected and it lies with us. Gandhi said 'be the change you want to see in the world'. We can be that change. We must be that change. We can turn this around but we need to act immediately and effectively.

Please, research the issue surrounding climate change and arm yourself with knowledge. Learn more about what is at stake and talk about it in your workplaces, your schools, your community. Take direct action, reduce your own emissions, write to your local MP, live local, ride your bike, grow your own food, vote with your dollar, consume less. Inspire others to do the same.

There is hope. Look around you. Look at all the people here today. And during today introduce yourself to other people and thank each other for being here, because we have an enormous challenge ahead of us and we need to support each other to create the change necessary to secure a safe climate for us all.


See a Video of the speech at Engagemedia (5:58) or Youtube (4:15)