"Climate change action requires policy consistency"March 10th, 2011
Wind farms have minimal visible impact and generate alternative energy essential to combating climate change. Yet opponents across Australia are lobbying hard to prevent planning permission being given to them, reports Sean O’Rourke, a 26-year-old from Melbourne.
A recent announcement by the Australian federal government of a commitment to a price on carbon is certainly great news for the environmental health of all Australians.
However, this action has generated a fervent and well orchestrated attempt to discredit climate change science and adaptive responses.
While this may be disheartening for those of us who would like to see immediate and resolute action taken on climate change, there is also an equally pressing concern that the volume generated from this debate is quietly overshadowing other attempts to limit climate change initiatives.
Even in the midst of the debate concerning a price on carbon, a federal parliamentary senate inquiry into wind farms is taking place in Canberra that could stifle the development of the renewable energy sector in Australia, and impede national action on climate change.
The Senate Inquiry into the Social and Economic Impact of Wind Farms is aiming to review any evidence that links wind farms with adverse health outcomes, excessive noise and vibrations emanating from wind turbines and the impact of these on property values, employment and farm income in rural settings.
With the possible exception of the review of employment opportunities generated by wind farms, the overall tone of the inquiry seems deterministically negative.
Unfortunately the federal response to wind farms is not stand-alone. Since the election of a conservative Liberal-National coalition in Victoria in December of last year, wind farms in this state are now receiving undue scrutiny.
Recently, new planning minister Andrew Guy intervened in the development of a planned wind farm by Future Energy in Chepstowe, 30 km west of the Victorian regional city of Ballarat.
The Chepstowe wind farm would be comprised of three turbines, which could produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 3,400 homes, abating approximately 22,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The location of the proposed wind farm is two kilometres from any neighbouring dwellings, has no visible impact upon tourist sites or native wildlife populations, and as such should meet the requirements of the current State Government’s wind farm policy.
A final decision by the minister is expected this month, the outcome of which could affect the development of any other small scale wind farms in Victoria.
The introduction of a price on carbon is crucial in limiting CO2 emissions in Australia, and elsewhere. A price per tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere will only be effective providing a renewable and clean energy sector is supported to remain viable.
However, current actions by members of the federal senate and the Victorian state government show that real action on climate change can easily be stalled.
The lesson for other communities, from the Australian example, is that policy action on climate change cannot be subsumed by one debate, lest other debates are lost.
Real action on climate change requires policy consistency that incorporates an economic imperative to reduce carbon emissions and support for local initiatives to foster renewable energy programs.