SYDNEY (Reuters) - Police arrested 13 people on Tuesday after they scaled the Sydney Harbour Bridge to demand Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison take emergency action to address climate change.
Security staff raised the alarm around 5:15 a.m (1915 GMT Monday) after protesters climbed the landmark bridge. Several protesters then abseiled down from the span to unveil banners underneath the bridge, including one that read: “Make coal history”.
Police said there was no disruption to road traffic, trains or ferries, and the final climber was removed from the bridge about four hours later.
Climate change has been a contentious topic for Morrison’s conservative coalition government ahead of an election on Saturday, with opinion polls showing the coalition is trailing the center-left Labor opposition.
“This is a climate emergency and the prime minister must listen to Australians whose lives are already affected,” said David Ritter, chief executive officer of Greenpeace Australia.
“Coal is the number one driver of climate change in Australia - we urgently need a plan to phase out coal power to be replaced by clean energy,” he said.
Infighting over how to address climate change has marked the coalition’s six years in power, with an influential right-wing base demanding Morrison support Australia’s coal industry, and the government has struggled to convince voters of its commitment to tackling the issue.
A prolonged drought across the country’s east coast has also propelled climate politics forward with voters.
Morrison said Australia would meet its commitment to the 2015 Paris climate accord but enacting stronger targets would damage its finances.
“We’ll meet the 2030 target but ... I won’t be costing Australians future jobs in doing so,” Morrison told reporters in South Australia state.
Australia has pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions 26% from 2005 levels by 2030.
Reporting by Wayne Cole and Colin Packham; Editing by Leslie Adler and Paul Tait