Diverse voices unite in harmony

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The panel charged with reviewing Australia's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) has received more than 3000 submissions, many of them coming from a coalition led by the Australia Wind Energy Association calling for the target to be increased to 10% by 2010. The so-called 10x10 coalition is indicative of the diversity of organisations now firmly in favour of the legislation and further development of the renewables industry.

Among coalition members are the Australian Medical Association, Electrical Trades Union Australia, Institute of Engineers, Queensland Government Tourism, Industry Council, and Birds Australia. The Australian Council of National Trusts (ACNT) is also a member. The National Trust is often portrayed in the Australian press as being anti-wind and, by inference, against increasing MRET. In its MRET review submission, however, it makes clear that is not the case. "The ACNT urges the review to recommend an increase in the MRET target to 10% and to recommend that the policy setting of the act be amended to redress the adverse environmental and social impacts which have been caused by the operations of the act," it says. ACNT "appreciates the threat to Australia's heritage places from excessive carbon emissions, and is supportive of measures to mitigate those effects." It calls for sensitive development and better guidance within the regulatory framework to ensure renewable energy projects are truly sustainable. Wind development is pointed to as an area for particular attention -- though those who believe the National Trust is against wind energy simply because it has opposed the development of some specific projects, most notably in Victoria, are mistaken.

Indeed, the ACNT demonstrates a strong understanding of wind economics. The 2% MRET has "impacted most adversely on the environment," it suggests. "The low target imposed created such a tight economic equation for wind developers that only the most evidently windy sites have been considered commercially viable, and this has caused unprecedented development pressure on southern coastal landscapes."

Many landscapes have been threatened through proposed siting of turbines, especially along sensitive coastal areas in Victoria, it notes. Community resistance "has been exacerbated by a lack of appropriate planning and public consultation mechanisms." The result is that many communities are now hostile to wind plant proposals. "The confrontational atmosphere this has created is in nobody's interest and has, in our view, been caused directly by the imposition of such a low target in such a tight timeframe, without ensuring that state governments and local planning authorities were in a position to be able to adequately assess the values of landscapes subject to wind turbine development proposals." An increase of MRET to 10% will "change the economics of wind farm development and result in viable wind turbine siting proposals in less wind, and, therefore, less prominent areas."

Another member of the coalition, Daniel Gschwind, CEO of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council adds: "We recognise that moving toward renewable energy is essential for averting dangerous climate change and protecting significant environmental -- and tourism -- assets such as the Great Barrier Reef."

Kerryn Phelps of the Australian Medical Association adds: "There's a growing human health cost to polluting energy sources like coal, oil and gas. We support the MRET (increase) to ten per cent because it will translate into cleaner air, lower, greenhouse gas emissions and real health benefits for Australians."

From the Electrical Trade Union of Australia, Dean J Mighell notes: "To get the highly skilled, long term jobs offered by renewable energy, we need a target on a par with world standards that will make Australia a regional export hub for renewable energy technologies."

Political leaders and the review panel members "should take note that such remarkably diverse organisations agree on one thing: that a more ambitious target is needed to quickly move to renewable energy and reduce the risks of climate change," concludes Danny Kennedy of Climate Action Network Australia.

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