Thousands of Australians rallied around the nation yesterday to support a tax on the carbon emissions blamed for global warming, as a new report outlined the risks of climate change for sea levels.
In Sydney, demonstrators gathered at Prince Alfred Park as part of the “Say Yes” campaign, carrying banners that read: “Say yes to cutting carbon pollution” and “Cut carbon pollution, unlock clean energy.”
“Today is a big day, because today Australians will ask their government for a price on carbon,” said rally organizer Simon Sheikh, who is also the national director of the activist group GetUp.
Thousands more attended rallies in other major cities, including Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, in support of the government’s proposed carbon tax on major industrial polluters.
The popularity of the center-left Labor government has dropped to record lows since Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the proposed tax earlier this year, but climate activists said yesterday that momentum was shifting.
“We think momentum is building, people-power is building, because Australians want action on climate change,” Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Don Henry said in Melbourne. “So it’s the right time for all Australians, from all walks of life, to say: ‘Hey, come on parliamentarians, no matter what your political color, we pay your salary, we vote you in, we want action on climate change now and that means a price on pollution.’”
Australia is among the world’s worst per capita emitters, relying heavily on coal-fired power and exporting millions of tonnes of the fuel to Asia, and Gillard wants to tax carbon polluters from next year with a fixed price levy.
This would give way to an emissions trading scheme within three to five years.
The rallies came as Australian Climate Change Minister Greg Combet released a new report outlining the potential impact of global warming by 2100 based on a sea level rise of 1.1m.
Australian assets at risk from inundation and erosion included 5,800 to 8,600 commercial buildings, 3,700 to 6,200 light industrial buildings and 27,000km to 35,000km of roads and rail, he said.