What do we want our community to look like on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis? That is a question many people are thinking about - including the CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy.
“When the time of isolation is behind us,” she said, “I want regional Australians to have fulfilling sustainable jobs. I want local businesses to be resilient. I want our children and grandchildren to have a secure future, whether it’s on the land or in town.
“In order to do that, we must recover from COVID-19 in a way that also tackles that other crisis: climate change.
“I reckon this major disruption to our way of life could be a re-set moment to help us build a better Australia.”
O’Shanassy hopes we won’t “bounce back” into the old way of doing things where climate change impacts worsen - giving us longer and more severe droughts and more devastating bushfires. She hopes that we will “bounce forward” to a new way where carbon emissions are slashed and we move rapidly towards a clean economy.
She believes that regional Australia is central to this bouncing forward.
One of the measures the government could take to do this is to create new markets and jobs in clean industries. This will lead to lower electricity prices, and cuts to air and climate pollution. O’Shanassy points to the example of Tasmania where renewable energy jobs are surging with full-time equivalent employment increasing by more than 11% in the sector last year.
Other measures include funding rural renewal in communities heavily impacted by the recent bushfires, investing in those rural communities facing the biggest disruption from climate change (for example the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and the Hunter Valley in NSW), incentivising farmers to store carbon in soil and communities to plant forests, and shifting government subsidies from fossil fuels to clean energy infrastructure.
More detail about the Australian Conservation Foundation’s proposal are given at https://www.acf.org.au/budget_2020_invest_big_to_renew_regions
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on May 4 , 2020.