Sports stars press Australia on climate change

Sydney (AFP) –


Hundreds of Aussie sporting heroes -- from rugby captain Michael Hooper, to pace bowler Pat Cummins and world champion surfer Mick Fanning -- teamed up Monday to demand the government do more to tackle climate change.

In an online petition dubbed "The Cool Down" a raft of Australian sports stars demanded the country's conservative leaders step up their game and adopt more ambitious carbon targets.

"Like so many Australians, we've experienced the impacts of climate change first hand," the group of around three hundred athletes said.

"But at the moment, if climate action was the Olympics, Australia isn't winning gold, we're not making the finals, in fact, we don't even qualify."

Sports-mad Australia has been at the sharp end of climate change in recent years, with intense droughts, bushfires, floods and Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching all made worse by atmospheric warming.

But the country's conservative ruling coalition has slow-peddled efforts to address the problem, instead vowing to build new coal mines and refusing allies' demands to set a deadline for net-zero carbon emissions.

After a landmark UN climate report last month warned catastrophic global warming is occurring far more quickly than previously forecast, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would not follow other advanced economies in adopting a net-zero target.

Australia is one of the world's largest fossil fuel exporters, sending vast quantities of gas and coal overseas which piles cash into the coffers of a mining sector with close ties to the government and Labor opposition.

Morrison -- who once proudly brought a lump of coal onto the floor of parliament -- has sought to deflect focus onto developing countries and the need for new technology, which he said was key to solving the crisis.

Signatory and recently retired rugby superstar David Pocock rejected criticism that the stars should "stick to sport" and stay out of politics.

"Yep, we've heard that one before," he tweeted. "As athletes we care about our families, communities and the next generation of Aussie kids coming through. We can't stand by. It's time to step up our climate ambition and action."

Other signatories included Davis Cup-winning tennis star Mark Philippoussis, swim veteran Cate Campbell, golfer Karrie Webb and Wallabies stalwarts Nick 'Honey Badger' Cummins, Matt Giteau, James O'Connor, Samu Kerevi, Christian Leali'ifano, and Drew Mitchell.