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Australia's Climate Action Summit: February 2009

Over 500 people from over 140 groups and organisations attended the Summit. It was the first of its kind to bring together the grassroots climate movement from across Australia, to discuss and strategise a shared direction for 2009 and beyond. The group was large and diverse, yet the willingness to work together was palpable.

Summit NaomiWhile some people attended skills workshops and discussion groups, others formed teams to develop the network structure and a national campaign – often late into the evenings. 

Among the outcomes of the Summit, participants unanimously agreed on a shared movement-wide campaign to:

  • Prevent the CPRS from becoming law, as it will fail to make emission cuts necessary to stop the climate emergency.
  • Build community-wide action to demand green jobs, a just transition for fossil fuel industry workers and 100% renewable energy by 2020.
  • Aim for stabilisation at 300ppm CO2 and strong international agreement in line with what science and global justice demands.

A timeline of national events, with the first in late March, has also been agreed. A process for finalising the structure of the new network has been proposed, following 3 days of work by the network-building stream of the Summit. This will be finalised over the next several weeks.

A draft, voluntary policy sign on statement was agreed. On the Monday night, inter-movement climate talks were held between the major ENGOs and representatives of the grassroots movement, to facilitate dialogue between the different arms of the movement.

On the Tuesday, 35 politicians including Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and Shadow Climate Change Minister Greg Hunt were visited by members of community climate groups in a lobbying blitz on Parliament House.

In a moving culmination of the Summit, on the first day of Federal Parliament in 2009, 2500 people formed a human chain around Parliament House to send a “climate emergency” message to the Rudd government. It was a peaceful and powerful display of our intent to put climate change at the top of the political agenda in 2009.

The event was well covered by the media, including stories on ABC Lateline, Radio National, The Age and the Canberra Times. Several community climate group members had their first opportunity to be media spokespeople, and did us all proud.

The 4-day Summit was truly a historic event – and it’s just a taste of what’s to come! 


 

Campaign Strategy and Development Stream

One of the objectives of the inaugural summit was to develop at least one campaign that community climate action groups could work on together in 2009. Through the campaign strategy and development stream we fulfilled this objective. The process included an open stream over three days, which more than 100 people participated in, with a report back and consensus building decision-making session at the end of each day with the whole summit.

Our Vision

We face a climate emergency. Our vision is to work together at emergency speed to restore in a just way a safe climate in time for all people, all species and all generations.

Tactics

In order to meet the objectives written above in this email, and work towards our vision, the summit also agreed on some key shared tactics and initiatives. We agreed to utilise diverse tactics to engage different types of people to achieve our objectives Some key initiatives and actions include:

  • A Campaign manual for climate action groups. Manual to include information/fact sheets on the three objectives, including safe and just climate information, tips, tools and tactics for community engagement, building this campaign in your community and talking to people and getting them involved.
  • March 27 and the day after Rudd tables the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) Legislation in the Lower House of Parliament – Actions at Corporate Offices and MPs offices calling for their opposition to the CPRS.
  • June 6 – World Environment Day – Rallies in each major city and actions in regional areas launching the 100% Renewables in by 2020 campaign Mid September to coincide with the peak melt of the Arctic Summer Sea Ice (and school holidays)
  • 3-day Climate Direct Action Camps at polluting infrastructure in each state In the week leading up to and during the Copenhagen International Climate Negotiations – actions in communities across the country Our first shared activity together – the step-ins at local politicians offices in late March is coming up soon, so start organising your group to take part and lets show them what a powerful movement we are.

Other Tactics

There were many other tactics and initiatives brainstormed at the summit. Some key ideas that have momentum behind them include ways to engage local governments in this campaign and a union and workers engagement including organising conferences with unions and the climate movement.

Get involved

These objectives won’t be reached without you. We invite you to get involved. Some ways you can do that:

  • Join your local Climate Action Group or start your own
  • Help organise one or many of the actions outlined above, through joining one of the regional organising working groups that are in the process of being established as part of the national network.

Network Development

Up to 80 people participated in the Network Development Stream and had productive discussion about the role and structure of a national grassroots climate action network. The Stream developed a Purpose Statement for the Network that was approved by the consensus decision of the whole Summit: to build a diverse, participatory grassroots climate action movement; support the exchange of knowledge, skills and resources; implement the outcomes of national Climate Action Summits; and to facilitate major campaigns.

The Group will be developing a preliminary proposal on Network Structure by the end of February. It will then seek the feedback of Climate Action Groups for a final proposal towards the end of March. The Group will consider issues like membership and decision-making, and will be developing a draft Structure based on these agreed objectives for the network: decentralisation of power, democratic representation, transparency and accountability, simplicity, effectiveness, regional participation, responsiveness and the balance of local autonomy and collective unity.

Grassroots and National NGO Climate Talks

On Monday evening at the end of the summit, a special meeting took place between grassroots and state and national NGOs to talk about how the broader movement – not just local community groups can work together more effectively. Attendees from the summit who participated in this meeting included Lizette from Climate Action Albury-Wodonga, Jenny from Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle, Duncan and Zoe from Climate Action Newcastle, Matt and Mark from Beyond Zero Emissions and George from Rising Tide and the summit organising collective. Other NGOs that attended the meeting were Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Environment Victoria, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Climate Action Network Australia, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Get Up and the Australian Greens. We reported back on the outcomes of the summit and the next steps, and spent some time discussing with the other groups how the broader movement can be more complementary and integrated. The key outcome of the meeting was that a further process is needed to carry on the all-important dialogue between grassroots and state and national climate groups and this is going to be facilitated by CANA. CANA have undertaken to review the agenda for the upcoming CANA conference in light of this development and the outcomes of the summit. 

Lobbying Blitz

On Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th February forty delegates from the summit spent the day lobbying members of Federal parliament, taking the message of the summit with us. It was a great experience and really drove home to the politicians we met the strength and aspiration of the national climate movement. We met Government, Opposition and Independent members, Senators and even a few Minister, around 35 in all, from every state and territory. Because the first sitting day is so busy, and as a result of the huge economic stimulus package, some MPs had to cancel or postpone, but plans are already underway for follow up work. Many MPs offered to take more information.

Some highlights include:

  • Connecting with Nationals MPs wanting to make moves to stop coal mining from destroying prime agricultural land
  • Hearing from Government MPs about their support for some of our work
  • Undertaking to have further contact, sending information in, holding further meetings and following up in the community.
  • Taking the summit’s outcomes straight to Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, her chief of staff and advisor for a half hour meeting.
  • Being able to put the skills learnt at the lobbying workshops into action.

The teams who undertook the lobbying put hours and hours into it, researching MP’s backgrounds, brainstorming how to approach the meetings and debriefing afterwards. The generosity of the staff in Greens Senators’ offices – particularly Tim Hollo from Christine Milne’s office – needs to be acknowledged and commended. If the national climate summit becomes a biannual event, we look forward to undertaking more of this group lobbying in the future, with even more delegates taking part, and more MPs.

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