Focus sat down with Sarah Wood from Coffs Coast Climate Action Group to find out about the wonderful things they’re doing here on the Coffs Coast.
Can you tell us about your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I moved here with my family from Victoria as a teenager and went to school here, met my husband here and now have my little boy growing up here! My family has lived here for over 20 years.
Great, and how did you become so heavily involved in the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group?
I watched Al Gore’s first film, An Inconvenient Truth in 2007 and was very moved by the urgency of Climate Change and how it impacted so many areas of our lives. This was really the first time I became aware of how rising global average temperatures were critically impacting our ocean temperatures and marine life, while creating conditions for stronger and more significant weather events, as well as having impacts on our health, food security and economic certainty.
When I had my son in 2012, I felt compelled to be more active and was thrilled when the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group was formed in 2013, following a gathering of 300 people for the National Day of Climate Action at the Harbourside Markets.
Can you tell us about the breakthrough the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group along with Coffs Harbour City Council have recently had?
Absolutely! The Coffs Harbour City Council has now joined 30 other Councils Australia wide, representing $6,984,961,346 in committing to divest from financial institutions that continue to fund the fossil fuel industry – a significant contributor to climate change. The Coffs Coast Climate Action Group, together with Councillors Tegan Swan and Sally Townley, were able to show that the Council can continue to meet its obligations under its current Investment Policy Guidelines, whilst also addressing wide community concern over the impacts of Climate Change, by preferencing financial institutions that do not fund the fossil fuel industry.
This was a practical way to align the Council’s finances to its commitment to addressing Climate Change, whilst also meeting current NSW Local Government investing policy guidelines. As at 30 April 2017, the Council had over $175 million invested in 29 financial institutions. The CCCAG were able to assist the Council in identifying financial institutions that Council already had a financial relationship with that have a stated position on not financing the fossil fuel industry. Importantly, this preference takes into account where the rate of return is the same or higher, so there is no financial detriment to the Council and is in line with its risk assessment policy.
And how will this massive divestment change things as we know it?
This sends a strong message to financial institutions that the community and Council do not want to continue supporting the funding of fossil fuel companies with the knowledge we have today regarding climate change. Divestment is a very powerful tool, as has been seen in other divestment campaigns, such as the protest of divestment against arpartheid in South Africa. It also encourages investment into more sustainable and long term solutions.
You didn’t become so extremely knowledgeable on your own. Can you tell us about the big names who helped you along the way?
I was very fortunate to have trained with former United States Vice President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader. This was an incredible experience and was where I learned first hand Al Gore’s climate reality presentation, as seen in his movie An Inconvenient Truth. I also spent four days with experts from the CSIRO, renewable energy industry leaders and expert communicators. Al Gore is committed to training regular people, who can then be a voice in the community to bring about action on climate change.
Wow, what an incredible experience! What can locals expect leading into the new year from the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group?
Following an amazing turnout of over 800 people at our recent “Stop Adani” event held at Park Beach, the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group is continuing to engage with our Government representatives and to educate the public on the importance of stopping the Adani coal mine from going ahead. The proposed mine has unacceptable climate impacts, with plans to mine 2.3 billion tonnes of coal, resulting in emissions of 4.6 billion tonnes of CO2, at a time when we must reduce our burning of fossil fuels as quickly as possible to limit the impacts of climate change. Adani’s project could also result in over 500 extra coal ships travelling through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area each year, risking ship groundings, coal and oil spills, water contamination and destruction of important habitats.
When you take into account the people power along with many selfless organisations, what’s your overall goal for not only the Coffs Coast, but the world?
We want to be a source of inspiration for our community with a positive vision of our future – one that is powered by clean, renewable energy, with opportunities for the Coffs community and local economy in sustainable jobs, regional development, cheaper electricity and increased energy security through decentralised energy production. We can do this by being a source of local information on climate change, promoting energy efficiency, solar uptake, divestment and other climate-friendly practices, as well as continuing to engage with our local representatives and decision makers.
How can locals get involved with Coffs Coast Climate Action Group?
We have our planning meetings on the first and third Thursday of each month, 5pm at the Cavanbah Centre, Room B, 191 Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour. All are welcome! You can also “like” our Facebook page and subscribe to our email list by going to our website http://coffsclimateaction.weebly.com