In times where “uncertainty is a certainty,” whoever is in government come September should see a Northern Territory clean energy industry as “a plank on which to rebuild the economy”.
So says Jimmy Cocking (pictured), CEO of the Arid Land Environment Centre and an Alice Springs Town Councillor.
He says that should happen by not only turning away from fracking and other fossil fuels that create carbon emissions, but by embracing the Territory’s – especially The Centre’s – natural advantages for producing clean energy.
That’s the direction a government needs at a time of desperate need for an economic rebound.
“Covid is hopefully a temporary crisis,” says Mr Cocking.
“The economic issues are going to be a lot bigger, and the climate impacts are going to dwarf the impacts of Covid.
“We need to make sure the recovery process is going to be dealing with climate change, and making sure that our communities are prepared for crises going forward.”
For Mr Cocking that means working to minimise current vulnerabilities, such as providing better and more appropriate housing all across the Territory.
Solar panels on Araluen’s roof: Co-ordinating renewables should be a prime focus of recovery.
Most importantly it means “making sure that we are not contributing to the heating and cooking of the planet by releasing millions of tonnes of emissions into the atmosphere.
“We need a clean energy led recovery that also restores nature.
“There are lots of unemployed people. Let’s see how we can create work for people to go out and restore nature.”
The councillor says he thinks it is hard for the major parties to come off the teat of the mining industry, especially while the “revolving door of jobs for former politicians in the fossil fuel industry” remains open.
Add in political donations received from the industry (which won’t be clear until after the election), and you have “two major parties that are hopelessly invested”.
Mr Cocking says it is time for government to “turn their back” on the industry, and look towards rebuilding through the organised use of multitude of clean energy sources.
“At this stage, we need political leadership to [acknowledge that] over 80% of Territorians in a recent poll were opposed to fracking.
“Let’s get on with the job. We need to ban fracking, but it doesn’t need to be framed that way. We can turn our back on it and focus on building a renewable energy driven economy.”
Mr Cocking says we can’t just keep putting up solar panels without making changes to the grid: “We’ve got opportunities here in the Northern Territory to look at integrated batteries and solar, and wind.
“I think we just need to pull all stops out, focus all our investment in that.
“We need to have specific training facilities in Central Australia, with the recognition of the solar resource that we’ve got, and the recognition of the solar city and the investment that’s happened here, both at a household and institutional level.
“We could be setting up training here so that we have solar energy expertise being developed here, and also training installers and people in batteries so we can have a pool of workers and create a local workforce.
“I think we need to take a long term view on this and invest in education and training at the earliest point as a part of our Covid recovery.”
The same 86% opposed to fracking statistic, from a Lock The Gate funded survey by Mediareach, was used by Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills when he announced that under a government led by him, there would be a complete ban on fracking in the Northern Territory.
While Mr Cocking says “a ban on fracking is necessary,” it is easy to make election promises.
“It’s one thing to make promises in an election campaign and it’s another thing to actually follow through.
“So, we want to see politicians actually do their job, which is legislation, and we want to see a legislative climate act, which has a net zero emissions target by 2050 and ensures that all government departments are working towards decarbonisation.
“We need to have a policy that is really ambitious. 50% [renewables] is somewhat middle of the road as far as renewable energy targets go globally,” says Mr Cocking.
Whatever happens in the upcoming three headed monster election, Mr Cocking thinks that after all is said and done, the new Parliament is going to have to put their differences aside in the name of recovery, both of the economy and the planet.
“Whatever happens with a new Parliament, there needs to be a bi-partisan parliamentary approach to dealing with these issues. We’re going to have a different Parliament, regardless of who’s in, and we don’t want to see the politics becoming base.
“We don’t want to see ideological, party driven attacks on each other.
“We want to see whoever is in power works with the Parliament so we have a clear way forward that enables both the private sector and the community sector to play strong roles in the economic recovery, but also making sure that climate change, which is already impacting on us now, is our front and centre with how we go forward.”
Anti fracking rally in April 2018.