Australian uni students demand greater climate action ahead of COP26

It comes as the Nationals agreed to conditionally support a net-zero emissions target by 2050 on Sunday after years of friction in the federal coalition.

But for 24-year-old Desiree Cai, who will be in her 50s by 2050, the government’s ambition is uninspiring.

“The government will be wanting pats on the back for committing to this net-zero by 2050, which is lower than the bare minimum,” the campaign lead of youth climate group the Tomorrow Movement said.

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“Delaying and kicking the can down the road is not good enough.

“2050 is way too late. We need action now.”

Ms Cai said students were asking the prime minister to take a more “meaningful plan” to the COP26 summit.

“Young people have been angry for a really long time about the lack of action and the delay and denial that’s been said to us our entire lives,” she said.

“Young people have felt ignored by the government, regardless of how loudly we’ve piped up.”

‘A climate reality check’

Jack Simmons was camping with his sister on the NSW south coast during New Year’s Eve in 2019 when the sky turned black during the middle of the day.

As smoke poured in from surrounding bushfires and ash fell from the sky, Mr Simmons said he felt scared for his own safety and the future of the planet.

“It was the first time that I’d felt a sense of malevolence in the atmosphere, like the environment was angry,” Mr Simmons said.

“In that moment I realised that the threat of climate change was no longer a future threat and that it exists now.”

Jack Simmons protesting for climate action earlier this year.

Source: Supplied

Looking back on that day, the 25-year-old said he feels “angry” about how the federal government has approached climate change.

For Mr Simmons, a junior researcher at the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry, climate change continues to be a personal issue.

In September, the government approved a coal mine extension just five kilometres from his home.

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He said the government’s continued approval of mining and coal projects is “mind-boggling.”

“This is coal that will directly contribute to anthropogenic climate change – and it is the same anthropogenic climate change that directly contributed to the 2019-2020 bushfires,” Mr Simmons said.

“As young people, we can’t understand how the government can choose to support the fossil fuel industry… while putting the future of Australians at risk.”

He said “time is running out” for the government to commit to a greater reduction in emissions. 

“What we need is a bold plan that addresses the climate crisis. We can’t wait to take serious action for another decade.”

Scott Morrison (left) and Energy Minister Angus Taylor (right) during a tour of the Ampol Lytton Refinery in Brisbane, Monday, 17 May, 2021.

Source: AAP

Energy Minister Angus Taylor over the weekend rebuffed calls by Australia’s overseas allies to phase out all coal-fired power generation by 2030.

He told The Weekend Australian the government would not agree to commitments that would jeopardise “affordable and reliable” power.

“We won’t be doing anything that wipes out our traditional industries or threatens our electricity grid. We will be continuing to reduce emissions but we’re not going to wipe out industries in the process,” Mr Taylor said.

“I‘ll enjoy, and am looking forward to, proudly explaining to international colleagues the right way to go about this when you’re a country like Australia.”

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