Taking the power back on climate change in Australia

The Australian Greens have employed innovative strategies to deliver concrete outcomes on climate change. The new challenge posed by Tony Abbott's ultra-conservative Liberal Party government is the latest opportunity to affirm the power of data-driven grassroots campaigning and smart negotiation in parliament.

In 1989, the current leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, was elected to the Tasmanian state parliament. A hung parliament meant that Milne and her Green colleagues formed an accord to govern with the Labor Party. This power was used to pass a comprehensive plan to transform the state into a 'clean, green and clever' economy. Her plan is now mainstream policy.

In the years since, the Australian Greens have evolved to become a formidable force in the federal parliament, and climate change has been a driving factor behind this growth. During the 2010 election campaign, after the failure at Copenhagen and the abandonment of climate change by the old Parties, the Greens made ambitious action on climate change their number one campaign priority.

The 2010 election campaign was evidence of the Greens using data-driven grassroots campaigning to translate support for climate change into support for the Greens. Around the country, and particularly in the Lower House seat of Melbourne, face-to-face engagement with voters through door knocking and cold calling enabled complex policy issues to be communicated persuasively through heartfelt personal stories on climate change.

These conversations helped the Greens secure their most successful election result to date; the first Green Member in the Lower House, Adam Bandt, and a record breaking Senate vote of 20.27% in Milne's home state, returning her to the Australian Upper House.

The election of Adam Bandt gave the Greens a unique opportunity to share power as the Tasmanian Greens had done, but this time the driving issue was climate change. The Greens formed a minority government with Labor, and negotiated for the establishment of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC).

Through the MPCCC, the Greens were a driving force in building the 2011 Clean Energy Package. An Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was central to the package, supported by other grants, legislation, regulation and mechanisms such as the Renewable Energy Target. The Clean Energy Package has since served as a policy template for countries around the world.

The Abbott government has since repealed the ETS, ignoring the advice of the world's leading experts who agree that a pollution pricing mechanism is the most effective and efficient way to reduce emissions. The Labor opposition has done little to stand up to the government, with both of the old parties maintaining an inadequate 5% by 2020 bipartisan emissions reduction target.

The Greens are set to lead a new and vigorous effort, using climate change to engage the community in a grassroots campaign designed to build momentum towards the 2016 election. It began with a National Day of Action on Climate Change on the 26th of October with community events and door knocking to take place across the country.

The climate campaign will focus on key electorates, identified among other indicators by high levels of installed solar PV, a younger demographic, and an already strong Greens presence. A digital electorate mapping system, developed for a successful Greens by-election campaign earlier this year, will be used to support the campaign.

The Greens will also support diverse community campaigns on climate change across the country in order to increase the pressure on both the government and the opposition.

Examples of these include fossil fuel divestment, the fight to save the RET from the Abbott government's axe, standing with farmers against coal and coal seam gas, and opposing the dredging and shipping of coal through the irreplaceable Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Around Australia, people are standing up against big business and the old Parties who deliver for them. The Greens are harnessing people power to deliver concrete climate action. We can't wait to win the fight.

Josh Wyndham-Kidd, Co-convener, ACT Greens