It’s been a lovely summer. I was camping for a couple of days near the beach at Meroo National Park on the NSW south coast. Long afternoon sleeps under shady eucalpyts… morning swims in the crystal clear ocean… slow cooked damper on the campfire. It was a great rest after a hectic year.

The turbulance of late 2008 was quite a jolt. Investment bankers lost their jobs and retirees saw their savings evaporate before their eyes as the GFC (global financial crisis) sent share prices and super funds tumbling. There was a growing sense that the bubble is finally over and that the unreal economy of the past decade cannot be sustained any longer.

For those of us who obsess about climate change, the latter part of 2008 was also a rude awakening. Many of us has been lulled into a false sense of optimism with the election of Kevin Rudd – there was a sense that things would change for the better. But the week before Christmas, Kevin Rudd announced that Australia will not be seriously reducing it’s greenhouse emissions and instead will be handing billions of dollars of public funds to the largest polluters – so they can keep on polluting.

I was at the Press Club when he made the announcement. It was awful. It is a total and utter betrayal of everyone who voted for action on climate change at the last election. And it means that 2009 will be a very busy year.

The economic crisis will come and go. Kevin Rudd will come and go. Even Greenpeace will come and go. But the changes that we are making to the global climate will, in the words of Garnaut, “haunt humanity to the end of time”.

I rememeber as a small child, thinking how grand it would have been to be living through some momentus time in history – a world war, or the industrial revolution. But now it is clear that we are in such a time – but of far more consequence than any that has gone before. The future is what we make of it. The clock is ticking.

2009 will be the year that the international community forges a new global agreement to cut greenhouse emissions – or not. And Australia has a  crucial role to play. The extent to which we play a helpful role or we continue to oppose climate action will depend on the extent to which you – yes you – and me and all of the other individuals, mums and dads, students, workers and everyone else- gets up and demands action of our politicians.

The stakes are high. The warnings from climate scientists are increasingly dire. It’s not just about whether or not it rains more in Melbourne, the race is on to prevent runaway global warming of 4,5,6 degrees that would fundamentally change life on this planet.

2008 showed that we simply cannot trust politicians with something as important as our future. So we are going to start 2009 by letting them know what their priority should be. Greenpeace has been helping to support grassroots climate groups all over the country to organise a ‘climate action summit‘ in Canberra to coincide with the first sitting of Parliament for 2009. It’ll be a time to meet others who are passionate about climate action, and to learn and to make plans together.

2009 needs to be a year of community action – hope to see you there.

John Hepburn

Climate Campaign Co-ordinator