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Another big day on the Hill

Have just returned from Canberra and an awesome day in the corridors of power with some truly inspiring climate crusaders. Thought I’d share my latest piece for the ACF blog:

Not even the Qantas grounding could stop our ace team of volunteer campaigners from reaching Parliament House for a powerful day of community-led climate advocacy on Monday.

This was the fourth Climate Advocacy Day that Australian Conservation Foundation has been involved in and the first as part of the Say Yes campaign. It was also the first to link ACF volunteers with some of the many local climate action groups around the country. It came on the very day that the clean energy bills entered the Senate and after months of hard work by each member of the delegation to build support in their communities for renewable energy and a price on carbon pollution.

With the carbon price legislation widely expected to pass the Senate next week, you’d be forgiven for asking why we up running around the halls of Parliament at this particular time.

The reason was twofold. While the legislation for our carbon price has indeed cleared its last major hurdle, a vitally important part of the “Clean Energy Future” package announced in July – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) – is not due to be legislated until next year. With the carbon price now reasonably safe, the opposition has begun swinging their wrecking ball towards the CEFC. Without the CEFC, which will manage $10bn of funds and has the potential to leverage many times that in private investment, we will not see the rapid development and scale-up in renewable energy that we so desperately need.

So that was one part of the reason, to encourage all members of the Parliament to work towards the rapid and effective implementation of the CEFC. The second part, no less important, was to let those MPs and Senators who have done the right thing and voted in favour of action on climate change, weathering one of the most relentless scare campaigns we’ve ever seen, know that the community is still with them. Despite a barrage of misleading polls premised on bad questions, our own experience of months of knocking on doors, holding public forums and having conversations about climate change has left little doubt that Aussies want action. (Ask people if they want a carbon tax, many will say no. Ask them if they want action on climate change, around 80% will say yes.) So we need to keep going and waste no time in building on the foundations laid this year.

Our delegation of met face-to-face with 50 MPs and Senators to deliver these messages. Were it not for irrepressible enthusiasm of those involved, the day might never have gotten started. Early on Sunday morning, having heard only hours earlier that their flights had been cancelled, eight ACF staff and volunteers squeezed into a rented van for a ten-hour drive to Canberra. It was that same spirit of camaraderie, determination and ingenuity that has allowed Say Yes to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges along the way and which no tough campaign like this can be successful without. It was one of many occasions when I’ve felt proud of our community and grateful to be part of such an awesome team.

At a press conference in the morning, held to mark both the arrival of the Say Yes “Earth Relay” and the beginning of Climate Advocacy Day, Tony Windsor MP had this to say:

“In years to come we’ll look back and say thank god there were people like you who understood what was happening and did something.”

I couldn’t agree more!


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