SYDNEY, June 13 (Reuters) - Hundreds of environmental activists took to the streets of Australia’s main cities on Saturday, saying the Labor government was not doing enough on climate change.
The protests came ahead of a vote in the upper house Senate next week on the government’s planned emissions trading scheme, which the protesters regard as inadequate.
The government has delayed introduction of the scheme by a year until 2011 to enable heavy industry to recover from the global financial crisis, a move that has been heavily criticised by green groups.
“The world is on red alert, urgent action is needed to rein in runaway climate change now,” Lee Rhiannon, a Greens politician, said at a rally in Sydney.
“The prime minister needs to recognise that baby steps is not what is needed, we need the giant leap to a zero emissions future,” Rhiannon said.
The protesters marched through the centre of Australia’s largest city, blocking off traffic, shouting slogans and carrying banners declaring “climate action now” and “human need not corporate greed”.
Similar protests were planned in Australia’s other state capitals.
Climate change minister Penny Wong, however, said their criticism was unjustified, calling the issue a “critical challenge to the nation”. The best way to tackle climate change was to ensure the laws were passed next week, she said.
Greens politicians have vowed to vote against the government plan.
Prime Minister Rudd has been under pressure from industry to water down or even ditch the laws, which some in the key mining sector say are too costly in a tough economic climate.
Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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