As world leaders gather at Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), over 200 protests around the world have demanded swift and decisive climate action. In Sydney, hundreds of people gathered at Hyde Park in protest of Australia’s climate inaction and continuing support of the fossil fuel industry.
The protest was chaired by UNSW Enviro Officer Anna Ho and Erima Dall from Workers for Climate Action. Both Ho and Dall criticised the inadequacy of the COP26 Summit in sparking meaningful change across the world.
“We’re choosing not to put our hopes on the leaders of a world riddled with inequality, crises, war and racism. We are not fooled by Scott Morrison’s so-called gas-led recovery,” said Ho.
The protest demanded a just transition for all workers, global solidarity with First Nations peoples, no gas-led recovery, no nuclear power, and 100% publicly owned renewable energy by 2030. Supporters of the protest included Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi and Greens MLC David Shoebridge, along with unionists from the Maritime Union of Australia, the Nurses and Midwives Union and the National Tertiary Education Union.
First Nations justice was at the forefront of the protest’s demands, with speakers emphasising the deep kinship between First Nations people and Country, and the importance of protecting Aboriginal culture and sacred sites. Following a Welcome to Country, the crowd repeated after Aunty Nadeena as she led them through a series of phrases. “Ngara nura,” she said. “In our Aboriginal language, hearing means understanding. We understand in a deep way, just like a tree understands it’s a tree. It has a deeper wisdom.”
The crowd also heard from Gomeroi activist Raymond ‘Bubbly’ Weatherall, who spoke about the ongoing battle to protect Gomeroi land, where Santos is pushing to install 850 new coal seam gas wells despite fervent community opposition. Weatherall noted that Santos has sponsored Australia at the COP26 Summit, reflecting the Australian government’s ongoing ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Maryjane Mckibbin Schwenke, director of the Matavai Pacific Cultural Arts Centre, spoke of the impacts of climate change that are already being felt in the Pacific Islands. “The Pacific Islands are at the frontlines of this climate crisis. Across the world, the impacts of climate change are felt hardest by communities who are least responsible for carbon emissions.”
“If our governments do not act now, it will be too late. We must end the use of fossil fuels and transition to 100% community-led renewable energy,” said Schwenke. Schwenke led protesters in a chant of “we are not drowning, we are fighting” before joining a group of Pacific Islander dancers performing a traditional dance from Samoa. The song represented the dawning of a new era.
Incoming USyd SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin highlighted the need to challenge the profit motive at the heart of the climate crisis, and criticised the inadequacy of the COP26 Conference. Godwin quoted “all-round icon” Greta Thunberg, who “dismissed the 30 years of UN conferences as nothing more than ‘blah blah blah’.”
“These conferences have always been an expert exercise in greenwashing, in giving an environmental gloss to the very people responsible for destroying the planet,” said Godwin. “The climate crisis is not in thirty years, the climate crisis is right here, right now.”
The protest marched from Hyde Park to Circular Quay before disbanding. Chants expressed the widespread sentiment that 2050 is too late for climate action; we need action now.
Come to the ‘What happened at COP26 and building the fight for climate action’ discussion on November 16. Watch the complete livestream of today’s speeches here.