- The fires that begun in September have so far killed 28 people and devastated the country's 100,000 square kilometers of forest.
- "We are protesting because these fires are unprecedented, they have been burning since September, and we need urgent action against this and the climate crisis."
- In December, the Prime Minister was strongly condemned because he had left for Hawaii for a holiday with his family, leaving behind a burning country.
Angered by the massive bushfires ravaging Australia, thousands of Australians took to the streets in the country’s major cities on Friday to call for the resignation of Australia’s conservative Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. They accuse him of being slow to respond to the current environmental crisis.
The fires that begun in September have so far killed 28 people and devastated the country’s 100,000 square kilometers of forest, endangering rural and urban populations and the country’s biodiversity. Gathered in the country’s main cities— Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth— the protesters heeded calls from activist groups, including Australian Climate Students and the British Extinction Rebellion. “We are protesting because these fires are unprecedented, they have been burning since September, and we need urgent action against this and the climate crisis,” said Anneke De Manuel, one of the protest organizers.
In addition to Morrison’s resignation, the protesters have implored the government to stop the mining of coal and other fossil fuels, and to invest more in replacing this industry with renewable energy technologies. Coal is Australia’s main export, the third-largest supplier of ore worldwide. Because of the domestic use of this energy source, the country is among the largest polluters on the planet and is responsible for 1.3% of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
Morrison is an avid supporter of the coal industry. As Finance Minister in the previous government, he even brought to Parliament a piece of coal to defend the sector as one of the largest sources of jobs in the country. Elected Prime Minister in May 2019, his conservative government approved the construction of a controversial coal mine in the state of Queensland, his main political stronghold.
The Prime Minister defends his environmental policy by saying that forest fires, climate change, and the coal industry have no direct relationship. But throughout the 20th and 21st century, average temperatures in Australia have risen by about 1° Celsius, according to the government’s Bureau of Meteorology. At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization that brings together scientists from around the world, says it is very likely that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was responsible for the rise in the country’s temperature.
Morrison also says the country has been reducing its carbon emissions over the years. However, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), Australia increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8% from 2013 to 2018, to 383 million tonnes. In December last year, the Prime Minister was strongly condemned because he had left for Hawaii for a holiday with his family, leaving behind a burning country. In his apology to Australians, Morrison stated that he regretted having gone on vacation in the circumstances.
“I get it that people would have been upset to know that I was holidaying with my family while their families were under great stress,” Mr. Morrison said then, during a press conference in Sydney. “But I’m comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here, just simply so I can be here, alongside them as they’re going through this terrible time . . . and I apologize for that,” he added.