Thousands of Australians, including farmers on horseback, have marched through Sydney, calling for an end to coal mining and a focus on renewable energy. The rally participants say mining projects damage productive land.
Thousands of people from across the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) rallied in its capital, Sydney, on Saturday, urging the authorities to ditch coal seam gas and coal mining projects in rural regions and instead focus on renewable energy programs.
Protesters, including Indigenous Australians and cowboys, gathered outside the state parliament in the eastern port city.
"The global market for coal and gas is changing, and global approaches to energy are [also] changing," Georgina Woods, the rally organizer from anti-coal group Lock The Gate, told AFP news agency.
"We don't want our state to sacrifice sustainable agriculture and community for the short-term money that comes with mining that will only bring long-term environmental degradation," she added.
Read more: Australia launches overdue shift to solar
The "Time to Choose" rally organizers said they wanted the state government to know about their opposition to coal and gas projects.
Last year, the NSW government approved 10 industrial solar farms and committed to an ambitious zero emissions target to be achieved by 2050. However, several state laws have proven to be an impediment to accomplishing this goal.
Local communities have been targeting several proposed and operating mining ventures for the past year.
The coal and gas mining issue has taken on a political dimension ahead of next year's state election
A political issue
Australia is a major gas exporter with large offshore and onshore projects. Farmers and landowners are worried that gas extraction methods could contaminate their groundwater sources.
"Our farms are being ruined; our food bowls have no water; they have drill pads or coal mines in the middle of their farms," Clare Twomey, one of the co-founders of Knitting Nannas Against Gas, told AFP.
"It's a huge disaster for our planet."
Exactly a year out from the state election in NSW, the coal and gas mining issue has taken on a new dimension amid rising energy bills for households.
While coal and gas are the country's primary fuel sources for generating energy, moratoriums on onshore mining have affected the supply. The government has launched a number of renewable energy projects, but they are not sufficient to fulfill Australia's energy needs.