Blog | 14th Apr, 2024

The opportunity to break free from fossil fuels is here, but can we seize it?

After years of denial and delay under the Coalition, Australia is playing catch-up in the transition to clean energy. The task is gargantuan, and we need to make up time, but the politics, the economics and the technology are finally aligning behind clean energy.

As a recent Climate Council report shows, Australia can reach 94 percent clean energy by 2030 with the right policy settings.

Here are some the steps we’ll need to take if we are to achieve a fast and fair transition to clean energy by 2030:

Passing environment laws fit for the task

We need environmental planning laws that can quickly and robustly determine where and how we can safely build energy infrastructure. That means setting higher environmental standards including regional planning (onshore) and marine spatial planning (offshore).

It means properly resourcing environmental regulators so they can make good decisions quickly. And it means recognising that building renewable energy infrastructure is an urgent matter of public interest, so we need to put these projects at the front of the queue.

Our environmental laws must consider climate damage in decision-making about projects – which means including a climate trigger in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Respecting First Nations

A key challenge is to make sure energy companies (whether privately owned or government) pay the rent. Instead of unleashing another wave of Indigenous dispossession, the renewables rollout should contribute to First Nations self-determination and economic empowerment.

Turbocharging offshore wind with a national strategy

Because Australia is an island nation, we are in a great position to take advantage of offshore wind. We can develop a massive industry with a national strategy that ensures we build it fast and build it here. But developing an industry from scratch is a huge challenge, and no other country in the world is doing it without a national strategy. We need to act now to ensure we don’t miss out on the economic opportunities that could come from “onshoring” the offshore wind supply chain.

Having a well explained and equitable transition plan

A priority now is simply explaining to all Australians why the clean energy transition is happening and what it means for them. This will get people on board and ensure we don’t leave an information vacuum to be filled with misinformation.

Getting community, business and government on the same page

Leaders across community, business and government need to take on difficult conversations, instead of taking cheap pot shots at renewable energy or getting distracted with false solutions like nuclear power and unproven carbon capture and storage technology.

After a decade of delay and inaction, we don’t have any time to waste. It’s going to take extraordinary leadership and coordination from governments to ensure the transition happens on time and in a fair and equitable way.

While the Albanese government has taken Canberra’s foot off the brake (at least as far as our electricity system is concerned), it hasn’t yet gripped the wheel and pressed the pedal to the metal.

This article first appeared in Environment Victoria News Edition 41, Autumn 2024. Download it here >>