Climate Change and the Ban Onshore Gas Rally by Marg Thomas

Gas Ban demo

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have deemed Earth’s surface temperatures in 2015 to be the hottest since records began in 1880. Independent analysis by these esteemed organizations underscores that climate change is globally well entrenched. Our reliance on fossil fuels, that relentlessly pump CO2 into our atmosphere, is the major contributor to this. Methane, unburned, a potent greenhouse gas, is now leaking from gas wells in Queensland, turning the Condamine River into a bubbling spa bath near coal seam gas fracking operations.

Recently we saw 250 people gather on the steps of Parliament, to remind government they want a total ban on onshore gas – 72 communities have now declared themselves coal/gasfield free. An ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) is also called for to drive stronger growth in the renewable energy market. It was interesting to see the Liberal Shadow Minister for Renewables, David Southwick stand with Trades Hall Council secretary, Luke Hilakari and the Greens to address the rally and call for a growth in renewables. None, except the Greens, are committed to a permanent ban on onshore gas.

A strong presence by the Greens with Ellen Sandell and Samantha Dunn, (also on the committee for the Inquiry into Unconventional Gas), both addressing the rally. Ms Dunn highlighting her experiences on the inquiry committee, in particular the evidence presented by regional folk concerning the immense toll the threat of the onshore gas industry has on the lives of those affected; the uncertainty surrounding their livelihoods, way of life and environment.

Luke Halikari stated: “The Andrews government has the opportunity to put the wind back in the sails by setting an ambitious VRET. It’s the right thing for the environment and the right thing for Victorian workers.” Does the union movement see the writing on the wall with prices for coal and LNG plummeting? Job losses are imminent with the renewable energy industry sector potentially able to take up the slack. An impassioned speech by Wendy Farmer from Voices of the Valley highlighted the struggles that people of the Latrobe Valley have faced since the Hazelwood mine fire and their determination to transition to renewable energy. Later, she went on to say, “The rally is a powerful acknowledgement that Melbourne knows what’s happening in country areas and are prepared to stand by communities to make change happen.”

The Liberals support a moratorium till 2020. Bengworden farmer, Gerard Deery, described his love of the land and his feeling of edginess that the water catchment would be placed at risk if the gas industry where to develop. He talked of a hope for a future based on care and respect for the land and waterways. He called on the Premier to stand by communities who have been fighting to stay gasfield free for five years. “Nothing less than a total ban on Onshore Unconventional Gas will do,” he asserted. The event certainly registered on government and key decision maker’s radar, with the rally trending on twitter and reports filed on mainstream media. Hopefully this will generate a more assertive approach to climate change.

Marg Thomas 0408 319 397