Climate action protesters angry over Australia’s bushfires rally across Europe
Thousands of people have taken part in demonstrations across Europe, taking aim at what they say is the Australian Government’s lack of action on climate change during the bushfire crisis.
Protesters stopped traffic in London and turned out at rallies in Berlin, Madrid, Copenhagen and Stockholm to show their support for victims of the disasters.
At the Strand in London, hundreds gathered outside Australia House, where the High Commission of Australia is located, calling for stronger action on climate change as part of a protest organised by Extinction Rebellion.
Anne Coates travelled from Sheffield, north of London, to attend the rally.
She began to cry when she spoke about watching the effect of the disaster on people who had lost relatives and homes.
“It’s just too much for your heart. You just can’t live with it. It just gets worse and worse every day,” she said.
“Absolutely devastating to watch it. It’s like hell. And it seems like governments around the world are in a race to drag us down to hell.”
She said Prime Minister Scott Morrison was “a laughing stock around the world”.
“We’re absolutely furious with him. And I don’t know what’s it going to take. Governments should be listening,” she said.
Many people wore koala hats to represent the massive loss of wildlife in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Fi Radford from Bristol carried a sign which said “koalas not coal”.
“We’re here to say to the Australian people, challenge your Government on the evidence they’re giving you,” she said.
“Australia, you are custodians of precious species that exist nowhere else in the world. Overturn your Government, they’re leading you to destruction.”
Harley McDonald-Eckersall from Melbourne said she had been watching on in horror at what has been unfolding in Australia.
“It’s been so horrible being away … Australians are extraordinarily resilient — like our First Nations people who have survived genocide and are still caring for the environment,” she said.
Australian Dylan Berthier said he believed the catastrophic conditions in Australia were a wake-up call for the world.
“I think a crisis of this magnitude is a global crisis. I think world leaders have a responsibility to call on the Australian Government to enact new policy that will actually prevent this from happening in the future,” he said.
One man carried a sign which read “Aloha from Berlin” in reference to Mr Morrison’s maligned trip to Hawaii when the bushfires were burning in December.
The climate action group Extinction Rebellion organised the protests across Europe.
Bushfires ‘a warning to the whole world’: UK politicians
The bushfire emergency has been front-page news in the UK for weeks — and has forced Tourism Australia to temporarily pull its new $15 million advertising campaign, fronted by Kylie Minogue.
When the UK Parliament returned earlier this week, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said what had been happening in Australia should act as a “wake-up call for the world”.
Last year, the Conservative Government in the United Kingdom passed legislation to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — one of the most ambitious targets set by a major economy.
But many environmental groups have said 2050 is not soon enough.
Labour leadership contender Clive Lewis told the House of Commons: “So as Australia burns, as millions in African states face climate-driven famine, and floods have swept the north of England, will this Government give a damn about this existential threat and act, not posture?”
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who is vying to become the new opposition leader, has criticised the Morrison Government.
“I hope that the horrendous wildfires in Australia, brought on by record temperatures, with such devastating impacts for the human and animal populations in New South Wales, will not just wake up Scott Morrison’s Government to its wilful inaction over climate change, but serve as a warning to the whole world,” she said.
“Climate change and global warming are real and Australia is right now showing the entire world just how devastating it is,” he said.
“And for senior politicians in Australia to still pretend there’s no protection is absolutely disgraceful.”
In an address to Vatican diplomats this week, Pope Francis also criticised climate inaction.
“Many young people have become active in calling the attention of political leaders to the issue of climate change. Care for our common home ought to be a concern of everyone,” he said.
“Sadly, the urgency of this ecological conversion seems not to have been grasped by international politics, where the response to the problems raised by global issues such as climate change remains very weak and a source of grave concern.”
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