Campaigners back McBain's promise to be 'a strong local voice for action on climate change'

Future Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain meets with a March 2018 bushfire survivor while on the by-election campaign trail last week. Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs conceded the by-election on Thursday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald
Future Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain meets with a March 2018 bushfire survivor while on the by-election campaign trail last week. Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs conceded the by-election on Thursday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

Bushfire survivors and climate change advocates say they hope future Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain will follow through on her campaign promises when she represents the region in Canberra.

Ms McBain has claimed victory in the by-election, and with Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs conceding defeat on Thursday, it appears certain Ms McBain will be sworn in as MP in August following the forced retirement of Labor's Mike Kelly.

Bushfire survivor and Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action member Lisa Roberts, who lost her home and business at Wandella in January, said policies including a rapid transition away from fossil fuels are necessary to combat climate change.

"While advocacy to help families like ours rebuild after the fires is certainly welcome, it has to be accompanied by a strong position on climate change," Ms Roberts said.

"There is little point in pushing for more funding and support for bushfire survivors with one hand, and remaining silent on new coal and gas projects, which will only increase future fire danger, with the other.

When we have the next general election, people will be able to really focus on who has a better plan for climate change. But at this point in time, let's actually focus our attention to hold this current government to account for their policies.

Labor's Kristy McBain

"A safe and prosperous future for our community requires a safe and stable climate. That's what we want to see our new elected representative fighting for in parliament," she said.

Retired Eden-Monaro MP Dr Kelly publicly disapproved of the Adani coalmine development in Queensland, and earlier this year voted for a losing motion calling for a bill allowing for a fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Ms McBain was vocal about the need for climate action during her campaign, tweeting in June that she "will be a strong local voice for action on climate change", and in the days leading up to the by-election, said she would support the construction of future coal mines in Australia, subject to their environmental approval.

Last year Ms McBain supported a motion by Greens councillor Cathy Griff, who ran against her for the Greens in the by-election, to declare a climate emergency, and in 2017 was involved in the launch of the Climate Council's Cities Power Partnership in Canberra.

In early June she was questioned on national climate policy, which is currently a target of reducing emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, while Labor supports a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

"Well, right now the Labor Party's not in government," Ms McBain told the ABC.

"What people should be focused on is what this government's going to do for climate change, and we know that there isn't a plan or policy in place.

"When we have the next general election, people will be able to really focus on who has a better plan for climate change.

"But at this point in time, let's actually focus our attention to hold this current government to account for their policies."

The United Nation's World Meteorological Organisation said this week there is a one in five chance global temperatures will be 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average in at least one of the next five years.

The Earth's average temperature is over 1.0 Celsius above the pre-industrial period, and the last five-year period has been the warmest five years on record, the organisation said.

"Whilst COVID-19 has caused a severe international health and economic crisis, failure to tackle climate change may threaten human wellbeing, ecosystems and economies for centuries," WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said this week.

She needs to represent farmers across the entire Eden-Monaro electorate by demanding urgent climate action at the significant scale needed to turn the tide on global heating.

Farmers for Climate Action CEO Wendy Cohen

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action president Jo Dodds, who has served on Bega Valley council alongside Ms McBain since 2016, said she wants to see "campaign promises become real action".

"Climate change exacerbated the Black Summer bushfires, and continues to increase bushfire danger in the region. If we want to stop bushfires from worsening here, we have to stop digging up and burning coal, oil, and gas," she said.

"To deliver an effective bushfire recovery and safe future for bushfire survivors, Kristy McBain must speak out against coal and gas projects in federal parliament, and call for a rapid transition to a zero emissions, renewables-powered economy-as must all parties."

Ms Griff said with climate change seen in many polls to be a key by-election issue, she had hoped for a "higher vote" than the 5.64 per cent she received, after a swing against the party of more than two per cent.

"I found during the campaign there is a lot of fear and anxiety about the drought in particular. Our dams are empty," she said.

She criticised both major parties for their support of the fossil fuel industry, and what she said is a lack of effective climate change policy.

Ms Griff said myths surrounding her party, including claims they do not support back burning, and that they were responsible for the summer bushfires, hindered the party at the ballot box.

"The Greens message, and what we stand for, is change. This was an opportunity for great change," she said.

Farmers for Climate Action, which jointly held a candidate forum with Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action during the by-election campaign, has also urged Ms McBain to be a "strong voice for climate action" after her win.

"Kristy McBain has pledged her ongoing commitment to the long term future of her region. We now look forward to seeing her fight in parliament to end Australia's dependence on fossil fuels and create new jobs for a 21st Century economy, in renewable energy and ecosystem services," CEOWendy Cohen said.

Organisation member and Jindabyne farmer Jo Oddie said farmers in "Eden-Monaro know all too well that climate change-fueled droughts and bushfires devastate communities and livelihoods".

"Kristy McBain is now a member of the commonwealth parliament. She needs to represent farmers across the entire Eden-Monaro electorate by demanding urgent climate action at the significant scale needed to turn the tide on global heating," she said.

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This story Campaigners back McBain's promise to be 'a strong local voice for action on climate change' first appeared on Merimbula News Weekly.

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