By ERWIN CHLANDA
The government is lots of talk and little action on developing the renewable energy industry: “Other than encouraging private sector investment in solar power, no specific reduction strategies are identified,” says the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) in response to the government’s call for comments, due today, on Climate Change Towards 2050.
Right: Solar array at Ayers Rock Resort.
“There is support for a renewable hydrogen export industry but no clear committed Government funding.”
As for the government, they say their “Climate Change Response provides a long-term vision of where we need to go and how we can harness the opportunities.
“A climate change response is a responsible economic strategy. It recognises that as Australia and the world transition to a low-carbon economy and respond to climate risk, those that don’t will be left behind.”
But ALEC says the government should not focus only on the strategies that provide revenue: “There is no detail on the intended legal or policy mechanisms, and the response is vague on … driving the growth in renewables and the hydrogen export industry.”
Community-owned energy infrastructure, including battery technology, need to be investigated, says the Alice Springs-based NGO.
The government is in denial about the scale and severity of the crisis, they say, and solutions are only supported if the proposals are likely to be profitable for private enterprise. There must be a place for communities in the NT playing a role, which could be achieved through a royalty system.
The Climate Change Act should legislate for emissions reduction targets and oblige decision makers to consider climate change.
Public funds are needed to support large scale solar farms that provide public benefits to communities.
Solar panel installations and energy efficiency retrofits should be prioritised for remote communities, public housing and other vulnerable communities.
On greenhouse gas emissions, the government should aim for zero by 2050.
Says the ALEC submission: “There are parts of the NT that may become uninhabitable in several decades.
“The [government] document does not acknowledge the link between economic activity and carbon emissions. Other than energy, there is little guidance on what is required to de-carbonise other industries.
“Certain sectors claim they are carbon neutral, which should be closely scrutinised, especially the unfounded claims of carbon neutrality made by the pastoral estate.
“An inherent contradiction in the plan is the role of the NT Gas Strategy in driving investment in gas fuelled industries. A renewable powered economy and gas based manufacturing industries are fundamentally incompatible.
“This paradox undermines the entire [government] Response and risks community trust in the NTG’s ability to keep communities safe.
“[Claims] an onshore gas industry would have a role to play in reducing global energy emissions by displacing coal consumption [are] inconsistent with findings from the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], which has concluded that gas usage must decline by 15% by 2030.
Solar plant at Hermannsburg, now defunct.
“NTG actions to prevent a temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees C [are] inconsistent with an industry development plan for onshore gas and petroleum, including manufacturing.”
ALEC says climate change policy must address the underlying causes of vulnerability and exposure in order to reduce the impact of extreme temperatures and volatile weather: “This will require unprecedented collaboration across agencies, departments and civil society organisations – details notably absent in the Response.
“In addition, the paper does not acknowledge the importance of water security as a key issue in climate adaptation. Addressing current crises in water supply and quality for remote communities will be a core adaptation strategy but is not a policy commitment.
“The Response does not acknowledge the severe impacts of climate change on health. There is ample evidence connecting extreme heat and mortality, with heat waves causing more deaths than any other climate-related event.
“Existing infrastructure, particularly in remote regions, is not designed to cope with extreme heat days, let alone the projected extreme heat waves. Poor infrastructure combined with some of the highest rates in the world of chronic respiratory, cardiac and renal diseases, means that climate change presents an extreme health risk for the NT.”
If the NT Government is seeking to utilise Aboriginal land for carbon sequestration, the terms of such an arrangement need to be determined by the landholders, says the ALEC submission: “Significant work must be done to strengthen the voice of Aboriginal landowners and their rights to water; not only economic but also cultural and access rights.”
ALEC says it will continue to lead in the development of climate policy while galvanising community action to ensure that the Northern Territory remains a vibrant and viable place to live: “We pledge to work closely with the NT Government towards a low carbon future, but we will not accept that shale gas fracking has a role in this future.”
The Town Council says it will be making a submission to the NT Climate Change Response and this submission will be made public in the council papers for the November round of meetings.
The Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Central Australia did not respond to invitations for comment from the Alice Springs News.
By ERWIN CHLANDA