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    • Thousands rally against coal’s political power in Sydney

  • From The Guardian: Exactly a year out from the state election, thousands of people from across New South Wales - including some on horseback – have marched through Sydney, calling for an end to coal seam gas and coal mining and a renewed focus on renewables.

    The “Time to Choose” rally, which began at Martin Place, marched to Prince Alfred Park in the city’s south stretching almost 2km along a partially closed Elizabeth Street.

    Neha Madhok, from rally organiser 350.org Australia, said people had come from across NSW “to put the state government on notice”.

    “We want the state government and the opposition to know that over the next year we are not going to stop talking about climate change, about coal and gas. We want to repower NSW, we want a renewable energy-powered NSW.”

    The state government approved 10 industrial solar farms in 2017 – twice as many as the previous year, and has committed to an ambitious zero emissions target by 2050 as part of its climate change policy framework.

    However, legislation has threatened to weaken environmental protections, and several proposed or operating mining ventures have been the targets of long-running community opposition, as well as several applications for extensions.

    Organisers pointed to the proposed CSG mining in Narribri, open cut coal mining in the Bylong valley, the Southern Highlands Hume Coal project, and Shenhua Mining’s attempts in the Liverpool plains as among the threats to the state’s environment and communities.

    “There is no safe place for coal seam gas in NSW. It threatens communities, precious groundwater aquifers and farmland, and the climate, wherever it goes,” said Naomi Hodgson of the Wilderness Alliance.

    Glenn Morris, who made headlines in 2016 after riding his horse Hombre across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to raise awareness about climate change, was one of the 25 farmers on horseback.

    “There is devastation because of climate change all across NSW,” the Inverell farmer said. “We can’t afford to destroy any more healthy land.”

    Bob Clarke came from Wollar, a small village near Mudgee, where he said the open-cut Wilpinjong mine was destroying the region.

    The Peabody mining company was granted an extension last year, but it has been challenged in the land and environment court.

    Clarke, who has lived in Wollar for 30 years, said Peabody had recently started buying nearby land, and the exodus of people had “broken the community”.

    “There’s only four of us left there now,” he said. “We’re not going nowhere, we’re still hanging in there.”

    Bill Ryan, in his 90s, said he wanted governments to realise citizens wanted renewable energy now.

    “They’ve got to take into consideration that this is what the people want. So we’ve got to get out and let them know they can’t get away with backing the mining sector all the time. They have to listen to the citizens.”

    The Greens MLA David Shoebridge praised the size and breadth of the turnout at the rally.

    “We have First Nations peoples, farming communities, inner city environmental and activist groups, all coming together under the same banner.”

    Shoebridge said people wanted to put the environment and climate change on the agenda.

    “The community is concerned. They’re talking about renewable energy and a fresh way forward that doesn’t involve coal. It’s a concern the parliament is almost entirely deaf to.”

    He said there needed to be a “just transition plan” into renewables to support people and communities that relied on industries that had closed.

    “We know for a fact that jobs in the coal industry are drying up. Conditions for those workers are getting more and more severe. Meanwhile there is a wonderful opportunity for ongoing solid employment in the renewable energy sector.”

    Sources:

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/mar/24/we-want-to-repower-nsw-thousands-rally-against-coal-in-sydney

    Photos: https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/photos-time2choose-rally

    Wrap up video: https://vimeo.com/264166919