Climate protest at Parliament House

Farmers, activists demand action, blame severity of drought on climate change


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Paris agreement 'not enough', time for bipartisan political approach, say organisers.

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A COUPLE of hundred farmers massed outside Canberra’s Parliament House on Monday morning to demand action on climate change.

Organisers said there would have been many more people there, had they not been in their paddocks grappling with the effects of the current drought, a dry exacerbated by climate change. 

Farmers for Climate Action convened the event, a three-year-old alliance of farmers and agriculture leaders working “to make sure Australia takes the actions necessary to address damage to our climate”.

Speaking after the event FCA chief executive Verity Morgan Schmidt referred to the ministerial council of interstate agriculture ministers who in May signed an agreement to develop a national strategy to tackle climate change.

That agreement specified actions to begin a national response that included:

  • Potential climate change scenarios and impacts over time;
  • Analysis of risks and opportunities presented by climate change to agricultural industries;
  • A review current  adaptation policies across the country and a census of emissions reductions in the agriculture sector;
  • A strategy to develop a national approach to adaptation.

Ms Morgan Schmidt said it was now time to add meat to that strategy and begin spelling out how adaptation can occur.

“This needs a bipartisan approach, we need our politicians looking outwardly at the problem, rather than inwardly at party politics,” she said.

She said talks in Bangkok ending on Sunday that failed to agree about guidelines of how best to implement the 2015 Paris climate change agreement were disappointing, adding the Paris agreement probably “didn’t go far enough”.

She said in the future, international trade negotiators would take into account a nation’s efforts to mitigate climate change and it was better to be proactive now, rather than reactive later.

This meant getting on board with renewable energy, she said.

“We have such an abundance of renewable resources, it is not appropriate to explore other avenues of generation,” she said.

“The overwhelming thing that came out of this for me was that I was inundated with messages on social media from farmers, particularly across NSW, who wanted to be there, but simply could not because of the drought.

“It’s a simple fact farmers are adapting far more rapidly to climate change than our politicians,” said Ms Morgan-Schmidt.

One of FCA’s founders and current deputy chairman Charlie Prell, who grazes sheep at Crookwell and also hosts turbines that are part of the Crookwell II wind farm, spoke at the event.

Mr Prell said the income from hosting wind turbines had enabled him to reduce his stock numbers by about two thirds, from 2000 to 750 ewes.

“The wind farm has given me and my neighbours added resilience to remain in agriculture and make it sustainable long-term, rather than short term.

“If it doesn’t rain in spring and we go into a long, hot summer it will be a social disaster in regional Australia that will amplify the current situation by factor of 10,” he said.

“We must learn how to best manage the effects of climate change and this government currently does not have a cognisant energy policy.”

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