Thought leadership: How local councils crunch the climate stalemate

While the Australian Coal Circus is getting more and more bizarre, with a federal government claiming that wind turbines increase carbon emissions, and that more coal is a great investment, the first Victorian councils are now sending a clear message of sanity to stop the proposed construction of the world’s largest coal mine and declare a climate emergency.

Though more than 2,000 kilometres away from the planned location of a new mega coal mine in Queensland, Darebin City Council and Moreland City Council in Melbourne, Victoria, have passed resolutions to do their bit to stop the Adani mega-mine, while City of Yarra City Council stand behind them with a climate emergency declaration.

This move at local government level is more significant than it may appear, because as soon as enough Australian councils begin to show this kind of thought leadership, it has the potential to become the country’s local governments, rather than the federal government, that become the real change-makers and create tangible progress in what the current regime of ‘fossil puppets’ – those coal-loving federal ministers whose minds have been hijacked by the fossil fuel industry – have managed to turn into a stalemate of disastrous climate inaction.

On 8 February 2017, Moreland City Council in Melbourne passed a motion opposing the proposed Adani coal mega-mine, saying it is doing so “in the interest of protecting the citizens of Moreland, their health, safety and future well-being”.


On 3 April 2017, Darebin City Council decided to send a clear message to Westpac that they don’t want the council’s money to be used for a project that will wreck the climate, destroy the Great Barrier Reef and trash the lands of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners. Parts of Darebin are very flood prone due to several major creeks running through the municipality. 

Darebin mayor Kim Le Cerf explains in The Sustainable Hour:

Five minute radio interview with Darebin mayor Kim Le Cerf in The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse – about Darebin Council’s motions in support of the #StopAdani and the Climate Emergency Declaration campaigns.

» Open Source & Creative Commons: Right-click to download audio file in 128kbps for broadcast


Interview transcript

Kim Le Cerf: “Darebin is a council in Melbourne. We start in the south in the inner city, at Northcote, and we head right out to the outer suburbs of Reservoir. It’s a very diverse council – we have around 150,000 people, and we’re growing. In the next 14 years we are expecting another 40,000 people to join us. We are also changing in terms of the diversity of the people who live here. Our residents come from over a 100 different countries, speaking their languages, and we have a very connected and multicultural community which we are proud of.

In terms of what we’ve done recently: We have passed a motion through the council chamber to throw our weight behind the Stop Adani campaign. We know that fossil fuels have had their day, and it’s really important now that we act to ensure that we are cutting emissions and not contributing to climate change further.”

You are a council in Melbourne, and this is something that takes place in Queensland. They have their own government up there. Why do you interfere in that?

“Well, we are disappointed by the actions of the Queensland and the federal government. What our motion does is to divest the money that we currently have in Westpac and their subsidiaries, also Bank of Melbourne. At the moment the critical point in the Stop Adani campaign is to ensure that they don’t get funds to start digging. Out of the four major banks in Australia – the Big Four – Westpac is the only bank that has not ruled out financing this project, and we think that we need to put all the pressure that we can on making sure that they rule it out just like NAB, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ have already done.”

So it becomes a divestment campaign in a way?

“Yes, that’s right. I think the only way to stop Adani now is to make sure that they don’t get the money they need to start digging.”

But again: why should a council involve themselves in big politics like that?

“If the Adani mine is built, heaven forbid, it will become the largest coal mine in the Southern Hemisphere. It will contribute significantly to increasing the emissions. It’s not going to create jobs for Australia, and it is in the process going to wreck our Reef, because what will happen is the coal will be exported – it is in the Galilee Basin in Queensland – it will be exported across to Rockhampton and loaded onto ships that will be going back and forth through the Reef.

There are many direct and indirect consequences of this project, and I think that given the magnitude and the significance of this project everybody who believes that we need to seriously address climate change, should be against this project, and everybody can play a part in trying to stop this.”

Darebin council has also taken other initiatives in that direction, speaking of the climate emergency – what have you done there?

“Yes, at our first meeting of the new Council in December, we declared a state of climate emergency. We have a group of counsellors that understand what we’re up against in terms of the climate challenge and we know that we are running out of time. The Paris Agreement while it is a move in the right direction – it says that we need to limit warming to under 2°C degrees – doesn’t go far enough. We have no carbon budget left. We need to move swiftly to reduce our emissions and take it out of the atmosphere.”

You say so confidently: ‘We have no carbon budget left’. I know people in this country who would dispute that. What do you base it on?

“Science. The science tells us that even if we do limit our warming by 2°C degrees, the Reef is gone. We need to aggressively cut emissions to make sure that we are protecting things like the Reef, that we aren’t creating climate refugees from the islands across the Pacific. And that means that even 1.5 degrees can be dangerous and we need to be doing all that we can to reduce our emissions.”

What has the response been within your council – among these 150.000 people – when you’ve made that declaration of a climate emergency? That’s quite controversial in a way.

“It is, and I think people are still trying to understand what it means. And it’s also a part of the general raising awareness about the seriousness of the challenges that we face. But Darebin is an area that has one of the highest understanding of climate change and support for climate action, so I think that the majority of our community is behind us and would like us to continue to show this leadership.”

So when you make these motions, as you have done here, with with Stop Adani and Climate Emergency, what’s the basic vision behind doing it?

“Everybody has a role to play. All levels of government, all communities – and the business community as well. We are trying to take decisions that allow us to take our council in the right direction, because it is every small thing that adds up to the larger action that needs to take place. So we’re doing what we can in terms of the way that we run our own council operations, and raising awareness and educating the community about what THEY can do, and if all councils were to do this then I think that we would go a long way towards helping address the climate problem.”

From The Sustainable Hour we couldn’t agree more, and I hope out there… Are you listening, all councils in Australia? All councils in the world, basically! And certainly here where we are living in Geelong: Geelong council, are you listening? Otherwise we’ll send this message to you from Darebin Council. Thank you very much for coming to the studio.

“Thanks very much for having me.”

[ENDS]



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» Herald Sun | Leader Community News – 4 April 2017:
Darebin Council threatens to pull $10m from Westpac accounts over silence on Adani mine
“Greens-dominated Darebin Council could pull almost $10 million out of Westpac and boycott the bank in protest of its stance over a controversial coal mine.”

» More information about Kim Le Cerf:
www.greens.org.au

» Kim Le Cerf’s Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/kim.lecerf

» Stop Adani campaign home page:
www.stopadani.com

» Climate Emergency Declaration home page:
www.climateemergencydeclaration.org

Click to sign the petition



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Darebin City Council: Stop the Adani coal mine

This was the motion Darebin City Council passed on 3 April 2017:

Stop Adani – Urgent Motion
That Council:

1. Divests all funds currently with Westpac, Bank of Melbourne and any other subsidiaries held in term deposits at the investment’s maturity and where possible invest these funds with fossil fuel free financial institutions whilst complying with the current risk profile established within Council’s Investment Policy.

2. Boycotts any future investment or borrowing with Westpac and its subsidiaries (once divested) until they publicly refuse financing Adani’s Carmichael mine.

3. Receives a report in May regarding Council’s current contract with Westpac as the supplier of cash and banking services, including options to exit.

4. Writes to the:
• CEO and Chair of Westpac and Bank of Melbourne informing them of this decision and urging them to rule out support for the Adani mine.
• Prime Minister, Federal Minister for Environment and Energy, Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Queensland Premier expressing extreme disappointment with the decisions to not only approve, but spend $1 billion of taxpayers’ money on this devastating project.
• Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Shadow Minister for Environment and Water and Federal Member for Batman urging them to publicly commit to opposing the Adani mine and withdrawing any Commonwealth funds that support this project in anyway (in the event they form government at the next election). The letter should also request they advocate to their Queensland Labor colleagues to reconsider their decision to approve the mine.
• Victorian Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change urging them to publicly commit to opposing the Adani mine and introduce a ban to all new coal mines in Victoria.
• Mayors and Councillors from Councils in the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action and other Victoria Greenhouse Alliances informing them of this decision and request they consider a similar decision.

5. Co-hosts a screening of the Guarding the Galilee documentary, in partnership with Darebin Climate Action Now.

6. Participates in future #StopAdani events and promotes the campaign to the community.

7. Reviews and integrates Council’s Investment Policy and Fossil Fuel Investment Policy into one comprehensive policy. The review should identify and where possible remove any barriers to increasing the share of fossil fuel free investments.

8. Receives a half-yearly briefing on the status of Council’s investments and reviews this decision in six months.

Carried unanimously

» Source: See page 32 in the Minutes of Darebin Council meeting on 3 April 2017



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Moreland City Council: Stop the Adani coal mine

Moreland City Council, a municipality in the inner north of Melbourne and one of the city’s most populous municipalities with more than 160,000 people, passed a motion on 8 February 2017 opposing the proposed Adani coal mega-mine. The council stated it did so “in the interest of protecting the citizens of Moreland, their health, safety and future well-being”. Here is the text of the resolution:

FOSSIL FUEL INFRASTRUCTURE
The rate of human-caused global warming is accelerating, with the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 each breaking the previous high point for the hottest year on record;
The already dangerous impacts of global warming such as the destruction of ecosystems and coral reefs, the increasing precariousness of water and food supplies especially in the developing world, and the danger to health and lives from more extreme climate events such as heatwaves, storms and flooding;
The world’s existing fossil fuel infrastructure if fully utilised will produce significantly more warming and make climate change even more dangerous;
Our present circumstances constitute a global climate emergency requiring accelerating action.
Moreland City Council is already on record voicing it’s strong opposition to any new fossil fuel infrastructure and taking action on climate change, in the interest of protecting the citizens of Moreland, their health, safety and future well-being;
Consistent with existing policies of Council, Council expresses its strong opposition to the proposed Adani 2.3 billion tonne mega coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Valley.

Motion:
Cr Riley moved, Cr Kavanagh seconded that Council resolve to write to all State and Federal parliamentarians whose offices lie within the Council boundaries, and to the Prime Minister, the federal Opposition Leader and the Queensland Premier, expressing its strong opposition to the proposed Adani 2.3 billion tonne coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Valley.

Carried.



The motion was proposed by Greens Councillor Mark Riley, and it had wide support of the other councillors with just two councillors deciding to abstain and a third absent. Cr Mark Riley is Moreland’s councillor responsible for sustainability and climate change.

John Englart reported from the meeting:

“The City of Moreland Council showed political will and voted tonight to oppose the Adani coal mine development and write to all Federal MPs urging their opposition to the development of the Carmichael coal mine. It may sound strange an inner city Melbourne municipal council campaigning against a proposed coal mine development thousands of kilometres away in the Galilee Basin of Queensland. But Moreland has never been afraid to take a public leadership stance in protection of their citizens. And climate change is the big one that affects us all.”


» Climate Action Moreland – 9 February 2017:
Moreland Council opposes Adani coal mine


Moreland Council has been a leader in developing a community climate plan, the Zero Carbon Evolution Moreland Policy, and was also one of the first municipal councils in Australia to start a fossil fuel divestment process.



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Yarra Council: Declaring a Climate Emergency

The City of Yarra is an inner Melbourne municipality which is home to about 80,600 people. Here is the wording of the Yarra Council climate emergency motion – and some more detail on the discussion:

Yarra Council unanimously passed a council resolution at the 7 February 2017 meeting in which “Council recognises that we are in a state of emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government including local councils”.

The resolution also said that, “Council recognises that the technology, expertise and capacity exists for humans to mitigate and adapt to this global challenge, but that collaboration and action is essential.”

Consequently, Yarra Council resolved to renew their commitment to collaborate with other councils and governing bodies through forums such as the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action “in order to take collective action to reduce the carbon emissions of our municipalities.”

Asking the hard questions
At the 21 February 2017 meeting, YCAN member Kerry Echberg thanked and congratulated Yarra Council on this action and then asked the following question:

“How will you develop a climate emergency program based on the latest scientific research and with targets and budgets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which reduces exacerbation of the disaster and protects the municipality, for your term of office and into the future?”


Mayor Amanda Stone thanked YCAN for “asking the hard questions” and the CEO responded that all council officers are undertaking to make consideration of climate emergency a key plank of policy making.

Yarra Council voted on 7 March 2017 to join the Global Covenant of Mayors from Climate and Energy, as described on page 15 in the meeting minutes:

YARRA COUNCIL RESOLUTION

Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy

Moved: Councillor McEvoy. Seconded: Councillor Searle

1. That the Officer report regarding the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy be noted.
2. That Council, noting the benefits of the Covenant, determine to join the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
3. That the CEO arranges for the appointment of an appropriate external consultant to assist staff in meeting the registration and compliance aspects required for joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy as noted in this report (before the end of March this year).
CARRIED


Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy
7,438 cities, representing 677 million people worldwide and almost a tenth of the total global population, have committed to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

» Read more on www.globalcovenantofmayors.org



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Climate emergency motion passed in association of municipalities

On 12 May 2017, the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), the legislated peak body for 79 local governments in Victoria, passed a climate emergency motion, with 77 per cent of voting municipalities in support.

Darebin Councillor Susan Rennie put forward the motion:


Motion 56. Climate Change

Submitting Council: Darebin City Council
Motion:

That the MAV recognise that:

(a) we are in a state of climate emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government, including local councils

(b) human induced climate change stands in the first rank of threats to humans, civilisation and other species

(c) it is still possible to restore a safe climate and prevent most of the anticipated long-term climate impacts – but only if societies across the world adopt an emergency mode of action that can enable the restructuring of the physical economy at the necessary scale and speed;

(d) the MAV has a particular role in assisting local governments in this regard.




“Climate change is an international, national and local concern and Victorian councils want and expect the Australian Government to develop policy settings that will ensure Australia can reach zero net emissions before 2050. (…) We call on the Government to develop policy that is informed by credible science and to become a leader in climate change policy.”

“There is an urgent need for the Government to show strong leadership, to trust in science, and to support regulatory settings that foster innovation and investment in clean energy. A steady, evidence-based approach that has bipartisan support is essential.”
MAV submission to Government to Review of Climate Change Policies, May 2017

» www.mav.asn.au


What did your council vote?

Find out!

The vote was by secret ballot. Contact the MAV representative on your council and arrange a meeting to talk about the motion and ask them which way they voted. A great conversation starter.

» The list of representatives for each Victorian Council can be found at www.mav.asn.au



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Victorian Greenhouse Alliances:

Local governments driving climate action

Sandra Mack from City of Moonee Valle, Cr Trent McCarthy from ​City of Darebin and Scott Mckenry from Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action

At the Victorian Greenhouse Alliances’ conference on 12 May 2017, Sandra Mack from City of Moonee Valle and Cr Trent McCarthy from ​City of Darebin lead a session with discussion about the practicalities of taking on the Divestment and Climate Emergency pledges. The session was entitled ‘The Impacts of Advocacy: Divestment and Climate Emergency’ – “exploring new advocacy issues affecting how local governments respond to climate change, including divestment from fossil fuel production and the climate emergency movement.”

The Victorian Greenhouse Alliances are formal partnerships of varying numbers of councils and other organisations driving climate change action across 70 of Victoria’s 79 municipalities. The Alliances work across their networks, communities and partners to deliver regional mitigation and adaptation programs.

More than 200 local government representatives – councillors and officers – as well as others from around Victoria attended the Victorian Greenhouse Alliances’ annual conference to hear about and discuss practical projects and ideas including renewables and energy efficiency plans, community and business engagement, planning for energy and urban heat, adaptation tools and waste-to-energy.

An overview of the conference is available on the Victorian Greenhouse Alliances’ website, plus some of the presentations and contact details for presenters so you can contact them for further information.

At the conference, the Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action (WAGA) officially launched its new tool to monitor and report on member councils’ climate change adaptation responses: How Well Are We Adapting.



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Canberra local government: Stop the Adani coal mine

In the Australian Capital Territory, ACT, the same Labor Party which the coal-loving Queensland Premier is a member of, voted to condemn the coal mine and ­oppose its approval, as well as any federal funding for it or infrastructure to support it.

The immediate reactions in newspapers such as The Courier-Mail and Townsville Bulletin was to point out that they did this “despite holding no jurisdiction or having any ability to enforce the vote.”

It happened when the ACT Assembly on 15 December 2016 passed a motion which opposed the construction of the Queensland coal mine and also opposed any contribution of Federal Government funds to support the mine, or related infrastructure.

“I am pleased that the Labor Party is standing with the Greens today and condemning this irresponsible, reckless and dangerous coal mine. However, given that we supposedly have tripartisan support for our renewable energy targets here in the ACT, it is bewildering that the Canberra Liberals did not. If you support the climate change targets and the reasons we’re striving for them, it is impossible to support the Carmichael Coal Mine.”
Shane Rattenbury, Greens MLA, 15 December 2016


» The Courier-Mail – 16 December 2016:
ACT doesn’t dig Adani coal mine
“The Australian Capital Territory Government has lectured Queensland against approving the Adani Carmichael coal mine, despite being about 2000km south of its location.”

» Townsville Bulletin – 16 December 2016:
Mine ‘a test’ for ALP
“Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan has slammed the Labor Party after the ACT assembly passed a motion opposing Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.”



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Byron Shire Council

Another council divests from Westpac, until the bank is willing to rule out funding for Adani



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Ballarat City Council

Ballarat City Council wants to become carbon neutral in less than 10 years under a bold plan.

At a council meeting in Ballarat – on 26 April 2017, the same night as administrators met in Geelong to adopt its Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy – Councillor Belinda Coates put forward a motion calling for carbon reduction and action on climate change. “It is clear that the community does want leadership from our council when it comes to action on climate change,” said Cr Coates. The following resolution was carried:

“Carbon reduction and action on climate change

RESOLUTION
That Council, in recognition of the need for carbon reduction and action on climate change resolves to:

1. Develop a strategy and implementation action plan for the City of Ballarat to strive towards achieving carbon neutrality with the consideration of a 2025 target;

2. Develop a renewable energy action plan for the City of Ballarat to move towards 100% renewables as sources of energy by 2025;

3. Work with the community, business and not-for-profit sectors to reduce community emissions and move towards renewables; and

4. Commence the development of these strategies and plans as soon as possible.

Moved: Cr Daniel Moloney. Seconded: Cr Belinda Coates. Carried.

» Minutes from the meeting (PDF, page 30)

» The Courier – 23 April 2017:
Carbon neutral target motion



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Local governments a leader on climate action

Beyond Zero Emissions research: One in five local councils aiming for zero emissions or 100% renewables

Research conducted as part of BZE’s Zero Carbon Communities project shows that nearly one in five Australian communities and councils have set zero emissions or 100% renewable energy targets.

The survey shows that local governments and communities are leading the way in setting zero emissions targets. Communities want strong climate action, and in many cases have the capability to deliver on zero emissions targets.

» RenewEconomy – 21 June 2016:
One in five local councils aiming for zero emissions or 100% renewables
“Communities and local governments want zero emissions and 100% renewable energy targets and are leading the nation on climate action, new research released today by climate think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) shows.”


Presentation by Imogen Jubb, BZE National Manager for the Zero Carbon Communities project.

Many Australian communities and Local Councils are developing Zero Emissions targets. With support from the Lord Mayors Charitable Fund, Zero Carbon Communities are supporting three Victorian communities – Baw Baw, Benalla and Nillumbik – to develop 100% renewable energy transition strategies.



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Guarding the Galilee

The Darebin motion includes a commitment to jointly organise a screening of the ‘Guarding the Galilee’ documentary. Here is the trailer for the film:

» YouTube.com



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Darebin: Exploring the critical role local councils can play in reversing global warming

Trent McCarthy, Darebin Greens Councillor, talks about his initial work on the Climate Emergency Declaration at Darebin and the North Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA), exploring ways in which to talk to councillors about climate emergency.

Trent McCarthy starts talking about declaring a climate emergency in council after around 5:30 minutes.

» Read more about the climate emergency declaration campaign



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Darebin’s Solar Saver program

“The basic idea of the program is simple: the council would pay for the panels to be installed and get the money back over 10 years through a small additional charge to the home owner’s land rates.”

» www.solarsavers.org.au

» The Guardian – 22 March 2017:
Renewables roadshow: how the ‘nonna effect’ got Darebin’s pensioners signing up to solar



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Darebin Mayor in 2012:

“How can we set a leadership example to the community?”

“The leadership work in ERAT (Emissions Reduction and Trading) had started even before this current term, and sometimes these things – certainly the recognition – takes a long while. So the work had actually been done during the 2004-2008 term which I was part of, and I suppose at the time you have to break down resistances that might be there and I’d be the first to admit that amongst us there were quite a number of people who were sceptical about what initiatives councils should take and whether – for instance – it was appropriate for local government to assign or align a decent amount of its resourcing to this area.

Others were pretty keen to ensure that the Commonwealth and the State Government actually played a more active role. But of course the circumstances in which there was a change – you could actually feel it mid-way through that term – and I think there was a collective spirit on the council at that point to work together with our officers to come up with a suite of arrangements which not only would meet community expectations but essentially take ownership for those ambitious targets that we would set for ourselves.

What could we do as a council to reduce our carbon footprint? What could we do in terms of our overall organisational call on resources? How can we set a leadership example to the community? So of course it has to start somewhere and I’m pretty proud, and now of course becoming mayor you actually see that as a continuum of time.

The awards themselves is just a mere demonstration of the long work that’s taken place. So even though they appear to be recent awards that we’ve achieved they are in fact off the back of something like five or six years pretty hard work.”
Mayor of Darebin City Council in 2012, Steven Tsitas

In this video from 2012, Darebin’s former mayor Steven Tsitas talks about the work that was done in the council in back in 2004-2008.

Bass Coast Shire, Boorondara City, Casey City, Darebin City and Mornington Peninsula Shire Councils speak about their carbon emissions reduction initiatives and experiences. » Transcript




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Another example of local councils taking the lead on measures to tackle the climate emergency:

» ABC – 20 June 2017:
Local governments to lobby for electric car support in federal stimulus
“Adelaide City Council has harnessed the support of local governments to push for a national approach to electric car rules and regulations.”



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More on what councils can do

» Community Action in the Climate Emergency:
Councils are the key – a guide for how councils can implement a Climate Emergency Response




» ABC News – 19 July 2017:
Climate change challenge accepted by group of local councils



More on the climate action stalemate

» Centre for Climate Safety’s ‘Climatic Root Treatment’ series – 14 October 2016:
The key to unlock the current climate action stalemate

» ThinkProgress – 10 December 2015:
Why Cities Could Be The Key To Solving The Climate Crisis


More about the Stop Adani campaign

» Blogpost – 4 April 2017:
Fight against coal to become “the fight of our time”

» #StopAdani social media updates on Facebook and Twitter

» Campaign home page: www.stopadani.com