The Guardian • Issue #2084

GREEN NOTES

Good news, hard-won

  • by Anna Pha
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2084

Thanks to concerted organising and campaigning by environmentalists, Traditional Owners, farmers, communities and individuals there were some wins in 2023. Progress is far too slow, but shows that gains can be made through united, sustained and multi-faceted methods of campaigning. Campaigning included blockades, petitions, emails and postcards to MPs, disruption of company AGMs, lobbying shareholders, court action, social media, and meeting with MPs.

New and expanded projects require funding. Coal, gas and oil companies look to the major banks and insurance companies to finance their dirty projects. After a long and sustained campaign, Australia’s biggest bank, the Commonwealth Bank, has at last agreed not to fund new fossil fuel projects or the expansion of existing ones. This includes not funding disastrous new projects like fracking in the Northern Territory. It has set an important precedent and signals the need to maintain pressure on the other big financial institutions.

Check if your bank or superannuation fund provides loans or invests in toxic fossil fuel companies such as Santos and BHP by visiting marketforces.org.au. If they do, then support the planet and Traditional Owners by demanding they ditch fossil fuels and then change to another super fund or bank.

After years of campaigning by Traditional Owners, the Greens and other environmentalists, the Greens gained agreement with the government for a ‘Water Trigger’ to be introduced into the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). This would force fracking projects to undergo environmental assessment and give the Environment Minister the power to halt new gas mines, including the Beetaloo and Burrup Hub climate bombs. Risks to water sources from all fracking projects must be taken into account. Fracking poses a serious environmental risk to water sources. What “taking into account” means in practice remains to be seen.

The ACT has committed to new homes being built gas-free. The Victorian Government announced that from 1 January 2024, all new planning permits for residential housing including subdivision licences for housing estates will be banned from connecting to gas. Four NSW councils have taken this step and another five have started the process. If every Australian household that uses gas went all-electric, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30 million tonnes over the next 10 years, be cheaper, and have health benefits.

In September, Torres Strait 8 claimants Yessie Mosby and Kabay Tamu met with Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen and Assistant Minister Jenny McAllister to discuss an increase in funding for adaptation measures in the Torres Strait. Advancing seas are already threatening homes, and damaging fresh water supplies, crops, burial grounds, and sacred cultural sites in the Torres Strait. The $40 million allocated to fund seawalls is not nearly enough to address the scale of the problem and will need to be split across 18 islands already experiencing major impacts from rising sea levels, flooding and erosion.

Masig, a small low-lying coral island in the Torres Strait about 160km northeast of Thursday Island, has a plan to transition from diesel to renewable energy. It was created at a gathering on Masig in conjunction with representatives from 350 Australia, Indigenous Clean Energy (Canada), and First Nations Clean Energy Network.

These success stories are relatively small considering the climate crisis, but they are steps forward and illustrate how united action on the ground can achieve change. They serve as motivation to intensify the struggle towards saving humanity in a world where extreme weather events are increasing at an alarming rate.

Acknowledgements: 350 Australia, marketforces.org.au

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