War on wind and renewable energy must end

Six years ago Australia's climate policy went from global leader to laughing stock. Prior to 2013, an effective Clean Energy Bill had been in place, but it was repealed when Tony Abbott came to power. Two years later, he underlined his hostility to wind energy, calling wind turbines "visually awful".

Two prime ministers later and Australia remains without a coherent national climate or energy policy. With sections of the Government still openly hostile, wind energy continues to be the focus of facile scare campaigns.

This has occurred alongside a rise in emissions that were once falling under the previous legislation. With the election decided, the incoming government has an opportunity to flick the switch on climate policy.

The war on wind and renewable energy must end for Australia to genuinely tackle our emissions problem.

Wind farm construction has delivered a jobs and investment boost of $5 billion to regional Australia in the last two decades.

A further 15 new wind farms being built now have created 3,200 direct local jobs and 7,600 indirect jobs in local businesses that supply to the projects.

Alongside the boom in new wind farms, there has been a dramatic increase in public concern over climate change with a large majority calling for climate action.

A recent survey by the Australia Institute found that two in three want a rapid transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and a majority support the statement that "Australia is facing a climate change emergency and should take emergency action".

The public sentiment matches the call from the international science community for rapid emissions reduction. The key to speeding up our transition away from fossil fuels is dependable, evidence-based policy.

A clear 100% Renewable Energy Target, modernisation of the electricity grid and reform of our electricity markets can deliver a low-cost, clean energy grid.

Best practice community engagement and community investment will make sure new wind and solar farms deliver tangible economic benefits for rural and regional Australians.

There also needs to be thorough planning for coal communities that encourages retraining in long term renewable energy industries of the future.

Hopefully 2019 will be a turning point which will see leadership that matches the science and the community, to end the climate wars and embrace wind energy.

Andrew Bray is the National Coordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance.