Climate protesters kayak to Australian PM's harbourside home

A group of kayakers hold up letters spelling out "Stand up for the Pacific" to protest against what they say is government inaction on global warming, in Sydney on June 25, 2016.
A group of kayakers hold up letters spelling out "Stand up for the Pacific" to protest against what they say is government inaction on global warming, in Sydney on June 25, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - A group of kayakers paddled to a tiny beach outside the Australian prime minister's Sydney harbourside home on Saturday (June 25) to call for action on climate change ahead of next weekend's election.

Protester Joseph Sikulu said he felt that the issue had dropped off the agenda ahead of the July 2 polls in which conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull faces Labor's Bill Shorten.

"We just wanted to make sure that we could get it out... that climate change is put on the top of the prime minister's agenda," said Sikulu, after kayaking from North Sydney to a small beach outside Turnbull's Point Piper mansion.

Protesters, some of whom wore sarongs and traditional woven skirts, held up letters spelling out "Stand up for the Pacific" and "Keep it in the ground" in reference to Australia's rich reserves of coal, a key export for the nation.

Unlike his conservative predecessor Tony Abbott, Turnbull has long been seen as a supporter of action on climate change.

But his government has been criticised for not setting high enough targets for carbon emission reductions, with sceptics saying its pledge to cut emissions by 26 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 falls short of the nation's fair share globally.

Turnbull this week defended the target as "strong".

Australia had "agreed to substantial cuts in emissions together with the other leading economies of the world in the Paris Conference", he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

At December's COP21 gathering in Paris, 195 governments agreed to a target of limiting global warming to "well below" 2.0 degrees C compared with pre-industrial levels.

"I'm committed that we will and, as I'm sure the world will over the next few years, agree to higher targets," Turnbull added.

Among Saturday's protesters were members of the Tokelau community who sang about the ocean around their homeland, a tiny Pacific territory of New Zealand, which is at risk of disappearing under the waves if climate change continues unabated.

"We understand that everybody is going to be affected by climate change but Tokelau is on the front line," one of the singers, Pine Esera, told AFP.

"It's all about standing up for the Pacific," she added.