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Community ramps up climate campaign in Melbourne's east

Community members in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne are getting organised to fight for climate justice. Liz Reen of Mont Albert is one of the many community members who have stepped up to call on the Federal government to increase Australia’s 2030 climate targets.

Liz, fellow members of the ACF Chisholm group, and community raised their voices ahead of the critically-important COP26 summit in Glasgow. They’re continuing the fight for stronger targets ahead of a Federal election and COP27 summit in November—where Australia is expected to announce increased ambition. 

Act on Climate caught up with Liz Reen for a chat about the community’s campaign:

Act on Climate: Liz, I’ve seen you at dozens of actions over the years. How long have you been concerned about climate change and how did you get involved in the climate movement? 

Liz: I have a background in the physical sciences and Information technology and have been concerned about the environment since reading The Limits to Growth as a teenager. I joined a range of ‘green’ groups in the late seventies and was active in a local group during the Franklin Campaign and then around forestry and anti-nuclear issues. 

Over the last twenty years I have become increasingly concerned about climate change and the lack of meaningful action. Like many, I watched An Inconvenient Truth and expected action to follow, particularly after the 2007 Australian Federal election. Sadly that impetus was not continued.

Since retiring in late 2017, I looked for ways to become more actively involved with the environment movement. I joined the new Australian Conservation Foundation Chisholm electorate group and soon afterwards stepped into a leadership role. Throughout 2018 climate action was an increasing focus with meetings and lots of door knocking leading up to the 2019 Federal election.

I also became a part of Friends of the Earth’s Act on Climate collective, following Facebook and supporting actions in my area whenever I could.

Act on Climate: What climate impacts have you observed in your suburbs and elsewhere in Victoria? What impacts concern you the most? 

Liz: I have a strong awareness of bushfires from family history – my young aunts were almost killed and my grandfather lost his business in the 1919 Otway fires.  

Living in suburbia I’ve not been directly affected by climate impact much yet. Thinking back I believe the first time I felt the impact was in 2003 in North East Victoria. The Alpine fires earlier that year had burnt an unprecedented area and there had been large rockslides on the side of the Buckland Valley in the aftermath. They were just such a dramatic change to the landscape. Mt Buffalo, one of my favourite places, was very badly affected. Each time I return I see the burnt alpine ash trees, which I know have limited ability to recover from fire, and I cry.

Black Saturday and its aftermath was full-on anxiety. At work we spent the following weeks on continuous alert, monitoring and contingency planning for actual and possible impacts on water supply infrastructure. I plotted graphs as telemetry stopped when consumed by fire, and later counted the costs of all the equipment to be replaced. Personally the catastrophic destruction in Marysville affected me the most strongly as it has been a special area for me since the seventies.

The Black Summer took everything to a whole new level because of the massive area and duration of impacts. For the first time I could see our society being really strained by the scale of the disaster and the loss of wildlife is too large to really comprehend. In Melbourne suburbs the smoke was really significant for such a long time. That was somehow worse than the Black Saturday aftermath because the fires were further away and yet the smoke impact was so much worse.

I’m also very concerned by the level of destruction caused in the Dandenongs by the June storms and the lengthy period it took to restore power for so many people. Our society is no longer capable of living without electricity for long. 

Act on Climate: The
Glasgow Climate Pact that Australia signed requires the country to take an increased 2030 climate target to the COP27 summit in Egypt this year. The Morrison government seemingly walked away from the agreement in the days following COP26. What message would you like to send to the Prime Minister about the need for a stronger 2030 target? 

Liz: The scientific consensus tells us a rapid reduction in climate pollution is required by 2030 to avoid even more climate damage and keep the global 1.5 degree goal within reach. Australia needs greater, immediate climate action to protect our communities, economies, jobs, and nature. Our carbon budget is almost exhausted.  We need a plan for urgent reduction of emissions—75% or more by 2030 and net zero by 2035.

Australia is out of step with the rest of the world. Globally, our strategic allies and trading partners are committing to significant pollution reduction targets for 2030. We risk costly sanctions if we don’t do our part.  

Given our abundant resources of sun and wind there are many opportunities for Australia in transitioning into renewable energy throughout our society.  We must move onto this new path urgently. The next few years are crucial!

Act on Climate: You're encouraging local community members to put up Climate Action signs at their households and businesses. How can people get their hands on a sign? 

Liz: To broaden the impact of the big climate poll released August last year we are building a movement, because people power is what will drive the changes we need. Here are the simple steps for climate action we are suggesting:

  • Raising your Voice at Together We Can  
  • Displaying a Climate Action Now sign
  • Speaking up on why you care about climate impacts both individually and on social media.
  • Writing to your MP

All this is backed by the Renew Australia plan to get on with the climate solutions that are here, now, and ready to scale in Australia. 

We need to keep up pressure on the Federal government to increase their emissionreduction targets as soon as possible. It’s time to show them visibly that the majority of Australians want more effective climate action. We are rolling out signs requesting climate action across Australia.


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