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By Ellen Sandell from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.
Two months ago I sat in Parliament House and watched as a $10 billion renewable energy fund became law. This was an incredibly proud moment for Australia’s future. I was proud because I knew this moment was due, in part, to the hard work of thousands of Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) members and volunteers.
While we fought (and partied) hard when the carbon price was passed into law last year, we knew this wasn’t the end. There was one crucial piece of legislation – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – that was yet to pass through Parliament. This fund would ensure that $10 billion of the money taken from big polluters through the carbon price would go to loans and assistance for clean energy. Yet big polluters were fighting to make sure it never saw the light of day.
Once we learned about this, as usual, AYCC jumped into action. But this time our campaign was a little different to what we’d done before. Rather than just focusing on lobbying politicians, we took a different tack. We decided that the best way to make change at the national level was not just to tell politicians we want it, but to show them we’re already getting started.
Since the start of this year, hundreds of AYCC volunteers have held events in local pubs, cafes, supermarkets, cinemas and theatres, asking these institutions to put a portion of profits into buying solar panels or retrofitting their buildings.
This local, practical, tangible change aimed to show the Government and Opposition that communities and small businesses around the country were already leading on climate change – and they better catch up.
Over 30 Repower events have been held around the country in the last six months – literally raising tens of thousands of dollars for real climate solutions.
I was in awe as stories came in from as far away as WA, where a local group held a retro-themed party to replace the ventilation and inefficient air conditioning at a University building in Fremantle. I was gob-smacked when I received a video in my inbox from a Sydney group who had to turn people away from a bookstore-slash-cafe as it spilled over capacity with it’s Repower event. And I couldn’t believe it when I found out an IGA supermarket in Canberra raised over $10,000 for energy efficiency, or when Hobart ran an event that raised $3200 to put solar panels on a local café. We’ve repowered pie shops and circus venues, cafes, pubs and supermarkets – all because of the energy and passion of our young volunteers.
Creating practical change is powerful, but this campaign was about more than just solar panels and changing light bulbs. It was also about attracting new people to the movement, people who won’t attend a carbon price forum but are happy to head to the pub to drink for a good cause. Through the Repower campaign we collected over 26,000 signatures in support of the clean energy fund, and presented them to politicians to make sure they felt the pressure.
The campaign was also about changing the public narrative: showing our leaders and our community that switching to renewable energy is possible and it is something that Australians want. While the national media was focused on the negative scare campaign about the carbon price, local TV news bulletins and newspapers were filled with positive stories of Repower venues getting on with the job – and asking our politicians to stop squabbling and do the same.
We know that climate change isn’t going away – and we have more to do. But that’s okay, because with all the energy generated through the Repower campaign, we’re not slowing down. There are over 20 more Repower events to come, including a huge finale at Old Parliament House in October, and we’re also turning our energy towards making sure that Australia’s renewable energy target is increased at the end of this year. But for now, I’m basking in the success of the Repower campaign, because when I sat in Parliament, hearing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate, I felt immensely proud to be part of a movement that helped to make it happen.