Australian students strike against government funding for gas industry

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Thousands of Australian students skipped school on Friday (May 21) and gathered with climate activists to call on the government to stop funding the gas industry, taking aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s plans to fund a new gas plant.

During the event dubbed “School Strike 4 Climate” (SS4C), students are meeting in close to 50 Australian cities and towns, organisers said, including major capital districts following the removal of Covid-19 social distancing restrictions.

“Today, together with tens of thousands of my fellow let-down Australians, I am striking from school to tell the Morrison government that they must stop throwing Aussie cash at gas,” 16-year old organiser Natasha Abhayawickrama said in a statement.

Australia’s conservative government has promoted gas to help fuel the economy’s recovery from the Covid-19 recession, despite calls from climate experts, green groups and the International Energy Agency to stop new fossil fuel investments.

Gas is also seen by the government as key to Australia’s energy transition, as it is cleaner than coal and can fuel flexible power plants to back up wind and solar generation. This week, Australia committed A$600 million (S$622 million) towards a new gas-fired power plant.

Photos posted on social media at noon from Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne, showed youths and activists holding placards reading “#FundOurFutureNotGas”, and “Clean energy solutions not coal and gas pollution”.

One of the world’s largest carbon emitters on a per capita basis, Australia lags the world in adopting electric vehicles.

Morrison has resisted global calls to commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, citing the risk of damage to the economy.

Instead, Australia is investing in technology to meet its Paris Accord commitment to cut carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, including A$539 million (S$559 million) to develop carbon capture and hydrogen projects.

The rallies demand a halt on funding for gas and coal projects and that the government instead invests and creates jobs in renewable energy, the organisers said.

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