Australian Youth Climate Coalition
Speech at the AEGN Sydney 10th anniversary celebration
13 March 2019
Good evening everyone and thank you for having me to speak to you tonight, it is a real privilege to be here and to share our work with you. Before I begin, I’d like to thank you all for the enormous contribution you’ve already made to action on climate change and the environment. Our work is only possible thanks to you, your support inspires us greatly.
My name is Gemma and I’m the National Director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Australia’s largest youth-led organisation run by young people for young people.
Tonight, you’re here reflecting on the last 10 years and thinking about where to from here and the landscape in front of us for action. I’d like to start by sharing with you the words of someone who inspires me greatly, Greta Thunberg, and her address to the United Nations, and for just a few moments I’d like to invite you to close your eyes and focus on these words and what it means to be a young person staring down the climate crisis.
“My name is Greta Thunberg, I am 15 years old and I am from Sweden. Many people say that Sweden is a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do but I’ve learnt that you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world by not going to school then imagine what we could do altogether if we really wanted to. But to do that we have to be clear in what we’re asking for, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. Our politicians only speak of economic growth because they are scared of being unpopular and are moving forward with the same ideas that got us into this mess even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency break. They are not mature enough to tell it like it is, leaving the burden to us children. But I don’t care about being unpopular. I care about climate justice and our living planet.”
“Our future is being sacrificed for a small group of people to make an enormous amount of money. In the year 2078 I will celebrate my 75th birthday, if I have children maybe they will spend that day with me, they will ask me about you, the people who were around in 2019, and they will ask what did you do whilst there was still time to act. What you do or don’t do will affect my entire life, me and my generation can’t undo. We already have all the facts and solutions, the problem has already been solved. All we have to do is wake up and change. We need hope but the one thing we need more than hope is action. We have come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people. We can’t change the world by playing to the rules, the rules have to be changed, and we must change them for our generation to have a shot at survival. Thank you.”
What an incredibly powerful speech that was.
What Greta shows us is that one person can spark an international moment forcing action on climate change onto the international stage. The opportunity in front of us is gigantic, as young people we’re not willing to compromise any more, we’re increasingly scared at the inaction that lies in front of us as the climate crisis continues to worsen. So, we’re getting ready to force our politicians to take action in the way that they understand, in votes. This Friday, tens of thousands of students will strike from school across the country, supported by tens of thousands of their parents, friends and people like us.
Together at these strike events we will launch our plans for The Climate Election – enrolling our friends to vote, campaigning in key marginal seats, ensuring climate change is the number one issue this election in every single community.
We see this as our last opportunity to elect a government with a real plan to address the climate crisis, an opportunity to frame and secure an economy-wide solution to the crisis like The Green New Deal from the United States. We’re on the precipice of a historic moment here in Australia – climate change is polling as the number one issue for the first time ever, our collective power in this moment could change the course of history forever if we all had enough resources.
I wanted to keep it short, but I wanted to leave you with a final question to think about. To give Greta the safe future she deserves, what would giving it everything you had look like?
Thank you for supporting our movement, and congratulations on 10 incredible years. I can’t wait to see the impact we’ll have next and where we’ll be when I turn 90 in 2078.