About 50 people rallied outside minister for climate change Mark Butler's office in Adelaide on August 24 to make climate an election issue.
Organised by the Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN), the rally called on the government to: build solar thermal in Port Augusta; end all fossil fuel subsidies; increase the Renewable Energy Target to 100%; put electricity supply under community control; and refit the SA car industry to build solar thermal components and public transport infrastructure.
Speakers included Greens candidate for Port Adelaide Dusan Popovic, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Adelaide Liah Lazarou and CLEAN spokesperson Renfrey Clarke.
The rally presented Butler’s office a petition of 1700 signatures that asked him to oppose approval of the huge China First coalmine in central Quuensland owned by Clive Palmer.
Lazarou told the rally she strongly supported the Repower Port Augusta campaign and called for public investment in large-scale renewable energy infrastructure with storage in Port Augusta.
Lazarou said she believes Australia’s climate policy must be based on the climate science, which says this is the “critical decade” to cut emissions and that we cannot delay action.
“We must continue to fight for a sustainable and just future that puts people and the planet before profits,” Lazarou said. “The community campaign currently under way in Port Augusta to replace the two ageing coal-fired power stations there with renewable energy is a great example of how we can do this.”
A combination of six solar thermal power stations with storage and 90 wind turbines could replace the energy output of the existing coal-fired plants, providing 24-hour baseload power for South Australia and creating over 1800 new jobs in the region.
The technology for a zero-emissions economy already exists; the fundamental obstacles to serious climate action are coming from the big political parties and big business.
Building solar thermal in Port Augusta would be a great first step toward a transition away from fossil fuels, and would open the door to building more solar thermal plants around the country.
Lazarou called for an end to all government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, now more than $10 billion each year; and for Australia’s mining and energy sectors to be publicly owned and under democratic community and workers’ control.
“We need to take back the enormous wealth of the richest 1% in society,” she said. “Nationalising the mining and energy sectors, taxing the rich and cutting subsidies to fossil fuels would allow us to invest in large scale renewable infrastructure such as building solar thermal in Port Augusta, which would create local jobs and begin to address the climate change crisis.”