The NEC President’s JAN Update

by Scott Sledge , President

Deanna, a young climate activist who calls herself “Violet Coco” was condemned to 15 months prison with no chance of parole for 8 months because she and 3 others stopped their van on one lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 28 minutes and held a flare in her hand to dramatise the urgency of Climate Change as it effects our future – and increasingly our present -through extreme weather events and species extinction. The Court must have misheard her name as “Violent Coco” as she was denied bail : normally allowed to defendants pending appeals. Her appeal is due to be heard in March 2023. Citizens held protests in Lismore and Sydney and the non-violent offender was released in December pending appeal. I wonder what is a little inconvenience – no more disruptive than a vehicle breakdown after all – compared with the consequences of public ignorance and apathy ? Coco pleaded guilty to breaching traffic laws, lighting a flare and failing to obey police orders to move on. The other 3 protestors didn’t get jail time.

In their December 2022 newsletter, the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) said it is “deeply concerned by the recent trend in harsh custodial sentences and heavy-handed policing against climate protesters in Australia.  “

“Harsh new anti-protest laws were rushed through NSW parliament in April, without consultation. The laws were a knee-jerk response to escalating climate protests around roads, rail and ports. 

“Climate change will impact the most vulnerable people in our community first.  Unlike lobbyists working for the fossil fuel industry, those most impacted by the climate crisis don’t have ready access to politicians and political process.  Peaceful protest is their voice. 

“On behalf of two flood- and fire-impacted women, Dom and Helen, EDO is bringing a constitutional challenge to the new NSW anti-protest laws, arguing they limit the implied freedom of political communication. “

COP 27 & COP 15
Considering we had reports from COP27 before those of COP15 I realised that I was using the acronym COP without understanding what it means. So I looked it up on internet (as we do.) and learned it means Conference Of the Parties which have been gathering to discuss various issues.  The first COP summit dubbed “COP1” was held in BerlinGermany in 1995 to discuss the issue of Climate Change.

COP 21 took place in Paris in 2015. At COP 21, something momentous happened: every country agreed to work together for the first time ever to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims. 

The Paris Agreement was born. The commitment to aim for 1.5 degrees is important because every fraction of a degree of warming will result in the loss of many lives and livelihoods damaged.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. 

They agreed that every five years they would come back together with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time. COP27 refers to the UN summit held in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh in November, 2022, which aimed to “accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.” The meeting in Montreal in December 2022 called COP 15 dealt with the issue of species extinction: there all participants agreed to protect 30% of the Earth’s land and seas by the year 2030, thus “30/30.” How this will be achieved needs more work, but the Australian delegation led by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has promised government action here, but no news on funding to bring it about. Still, Ms Plibersek was able to turn the discussion towards more immediate action instead of the proposal to aim for 2050. I think we will have some work to do in view of the federated states that make up post-colonial Australia. In most jurisdictions the elected governments have different rules on such vital things as clearing native habitat from land and forests logging. Scientists have warned that one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction in coming decades if something doesn’t change. The Federal Labor government moved in December to disallow awarding Renewable Energy Credits for companies that burn biomass for electricity. While stopping short of a ban on burning forest for energy, the withdrawal of this financial subsidy will likely cut the profit margin enough to halt the slide into clear-felling forests with the deception that this practice cuts carbon emissions. In fact, the harvesting of forests to burn for electricity emits more carbon than burning coal. So this decision is a big win for the environment!
The NSW Coalition government recently tried to bring changethe Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Private Native Forestry) Bill 2022, which would have ended local government involvement in regulating NSW land used for logging and extended private native forestry plans from 15 to 30 years. I thank Tweed National Party MP Geoff Provest for threatening to cross the floor and vote against the retrograde legislation. Facing defeat in Parliament the Bill was withdrawn.

Nimbin park to get new toilet/ change room block? NEC has been talking to Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (ALP) who says she will work hard to get our community some much-needed amenity. The sad reality is Nimbin pool has only one room for changing clothes combined with one toilet: not a situation many communities would accept: and when the pool is closed (after dark and during colder half of the year) we have no toilets there at all! People using Peace Park for picnics and sports, like the skate park, have to go a considerable distance for a toilet. I hope Ms Saffin can pull the funding together for this improvement. Peace Park toilets might also link in with plans for the Nimbin Walking Track which now has substantial funding and could be under construction before the NSW state election in March. Remember to lobby candidates for promises and policies that are sustainable. Our future depends on it!

We used to say that we need to act to prevent the disastrous effects of climate change in future. The future is here ! The neurotic animal has to change how we perceive our environment. The world is not just a backdrop to the games people play: it is the where we live. Every decision will require an assessment of environmental effects. Happy New year 2023.

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