Australia: Sydney protests as fires trigger health risks | News | DW | 11.12.2019
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Australia: Sydney protests as fires trigger health risks

Protesters have demanded that the conservative government do more to tackle climate change. Fires raging across parts of Australia have produced a toxic smoke that is choking the country's largest city.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Sydney on Wednesday to pressure the Australian government into climate action.

For weeks, Sydney — Australia's largest city — has been subject to toxic smoke produced by hundreds of fires, prompting authorities to restrict outdoor access for school children.

"Our government is not doing anything about it," said a 29-year-old protester. "No one is listening, no one is doing anything."

The Australian government has been particularly quiet about the fires, mostly attributing them to arsonists.

"Certainly, climate change is a factor, there is no question, but also it is important to note that most of these fires have been caused by 'Little Lucifers,'" Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC).

Read more: Australia bushfire risk soars with extreme temperatures 

A kangaroo crosses the road in front of firefighters

Wildlife populations have been decimated by the fires

'This is climate change'

However, some conservative lawmakers from within the ruling Liberal-National Coalition have broken ranks with the government's position.

"We are in the middle of the worst drought in living memory, this is the second-hottest year on record," New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean, with the Liberal Party, told ABC Radio. "Yesterday smoke was causing some of the worst air pollution in Sydney that we've ever seen — this is climate change."

Hospitals in the area have reported a 25% increase in the number of people visiting emergency rooms. At least six people have been killed and more than 700 houses destroyed during this year's fire season.

Read more: Opinion: In times of climate change, panic rules

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month threatened to outlaw climate protests, accusing them of increasingly disrupting Australia's lucrative mining industry.

Australia is one of the largest producers of coal, considered a significant contributor to climate-changing carbon emissions. Morrison has long supported the industry despite its environmental impact.

ls/stb (AFP, Reuters)

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