Australian students strike against government funding for gas industry

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SYDNEY, May 21 (Reuters) – Thousands of Australian students left school on Friday and gathered with climate activists to call on the government to stop funding the gas industry, targeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s plans to finance a new gas plant.

During the event dubbed “School Strike 4 Climate” (SS4C), tens of thousands of students gathered in some 50 Australian towns and villages, organizers said.

“Today, along with tens of thousands of my disappointed Aussie classmates, I’m on a school strike to tell the Morrison government it must stop throwing Australian money on gasoline,” Natasha said 16-year-old organizer Abhayawickrama in a statement.

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Many local businesses have also closed for the day to join the rallies, which demand that the government halt funding for gas and coal projects and invest and create jobs in renewable energy instead, organizers said.

Australia’s Conservative government has been promoting gas to help fuel the economic recovery from a COVID-induced recession, despite calls from climate experts, green groups and the International Energy Agency to stop new investments in fossil fuels. Read more

Gas is also seen by the government as the key to Australia’s energy transition, as it is cleaner than coal and can power flexible power plants to support wind and solar production. This week, Australia pledged A $ 600 million ($ 468 million) for a new gas-fired power plant. Read more

Students take part in a “School Strike 4 Climate” rally demanding action on climate change in Sydney, Australia on May 21, 2021. REUTERS / Loren Elliott

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

“A little rain won’t stop us,” tweeted Sydney Mayor Clover Moore, adding that “we won’t stop until the federal government takes climate action seriously.”

Australia, one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita, has resisted global calls to commit to a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, citing the risk of harm to the economy.

Instead, Australia is investing in technology to meet its Paris Agreement commitment to cut carbon emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2030, including $ 418 million to develop carbon and hydrogen capture projects. Read more

Government officials in the state of New South Wales, the country’s largest state, had urged students to stay in school, to little effect.

“We shouldn’t have to be here, we should be in school,” said Nabilah Chowdhury, another event planner in Sydney. “But the government just won’t listen. They won’t act, so it’s up to us to fight to protect our future.”

($ 1 = 1.2898 Australian dollar)

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Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Additional reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Karishma Singh

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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