Media Releases | 29th Sep, 2005

Unprecedented call for action on climate

Thursday, 29 September 2005

Union, welfare, church and social development groups will today urge action to stop climate change, in the biggest meeting of non-environment groups on the issue to take place in Australia.

The landmark conference, to be held in Melbourne on Thursday and Friday, will hear from a range of speakers including Oxfam UK, the Electrical Trades Union, World Vision Australia, and the Uniting Church.

They will discuss the social, health and financial impacts of climate change including:

  • New research on the impacts of climate change on individuals and their families;
  • The latest science on the impacts of climate change on drought and regional Australia;
  • A new study detailing how Australia will be forced to accept increasing numbers of environmental refugees in the next four decades.

Economist Dr Richard Denniss will discuss the latest evidence on which areas of Australia are likely to experience above average costs: “Climate change is usually described in terms of global warming, national disasters, and costs to the economy and the Government budget. The reality of climate change is that it will have a direct impact on individuals, their families and their local communities,” he said.

Victorian Uniting Church social justice spokesperson Dr Mark Zirnsak said the church was currently undertaking a study to see if the Australian Government was correct in its claim that it was meeting greenhouse reduction targets set in the Kyoto Protocol.

“We have asked the Federal Government to take climate change very seriously. Our partner church in Tuvalu has asked that we do all we can get the Australian Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tuvalu will disappear if sea levels rise. Climate change threatens to do that and we need to be taking action to try to prevent that”, said Dr Zirnsak.

Electrical Trades Union state secretary Dean Mighell said the environment was a critical issue for workers: “There are no jobs on a dead planet. Climate change is critical not just for our future but also for the jobs that Australia is missing out on in renewable energy.”

Victorian Council of Social Service Chief Executive Officer Cath Smith said Hurricane Katrina showed how climate-related environmental catastrophes hit the disadvantaged more than any other group: “The link between environmental disasters and social problems is clear. It’s the poor and marginalised that suffer the most. Drought and bushfires hit rural and regional Victoria particularly hard. If we are going to have a resilient community in the long term then we must deal with the projected impacts of climate change and act now.”

Conference convenor Julie Anne Richards said the cross-section of groups speaking at the conference reflected the widespread concern about climate change in the community and the united call for action to stop it: “This environmental problem will result in direct social impacts – the whole community must work together, if we are to succeed in stopping it,” she said.