Renewables, not nuclear: Socialist Alliance's climate action plan

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Socialist Alliance is aiming for a 60% overall emissions reduction, including 95% power station emissions reduction, by 2020 and a 90% overall emissions reduction by 2030. Immediate comprehensive planning is required, including the setting of annual targets, to meet these overall targets on time or sooner.

Australia should ratify the Kyoto Protocol and initiate a further international treaty and mutual assistance program to bring other countries together to meet a global target of 90% emissions reduction on 1990 levels by 2030. This would be done by cutting rich industrial nations' emissions as a priority, and supplying non-polluting means of industrial and social development to poorer countries.

All power industries would have to be bought under public ownership and democratic control, and the planned phasing out of coalmining and power would have to begin immediately. We would have to ensure a fair transition plan (including guaranteed jobs and retraining on full pay) for coalmining and power-station worker communities, with new sustainable industries being built in their areas and paid redundancies offered.

We could run maximum possible baseload power from existing natural gas and/or hydro power stations, instead of coal, as an interim measure until renewable energy can take over. Coal should only be used for predicted energy peaks in the short-term until renewable energy sources replace first it and then the natural gas power stations.

The construction of wind farms in suitable areas should begin immediately, and research should be funded into further wind, solar photovoltaic cells, geothermal, concentrating solar thermal, biofuel (from waste), wave and tidal generation sources, with pilot solar-thermal and geothermal plants set up immediately. A power grid is needed with distributed, diversified electricity generation for stability and efficiency.

All urban and regional public transport should be free and the network upgraded to enable all urban residents to use it for all their regular commuting. Interstate train and ferry services should be nationalised and upgraded, while making them cheaper than air travel.

Reliance on air travel should be reduced, while ensuring equal but limited access, with the aim of replacing air travel with trains (and ferries on Bass Strait). As much freight as possible should be moved to rail. All rail and light rail should be electrified, with other public transport and freight running on waste biofuels where possible.

Bicycle use would be encouraged through more cycle ways, bike racks on public transport and more public shower facilities. Free or very cheap bicycle networks could be implemented, as in Barcelona and Amsterdam.

The immense manufacturing potential of the auto industry would be under public control, and this industry re-tooled for converting existing cars to electric, and for manufacturing wind turbines, public transport vehicles and infrastructure, solar hot water, solar photovoltaic cells, etc. The conversion of private cars to electric would be subsidised.

The transition to a zero-waste economy would be started, in the first place by establishing an energy auditing department to investigate industrial energy waste and recommend legislation or other measures to end it, including improving or banning wasteful consumer products such as those with built-in obsolescence. Workers in industry can redesign their products and jobs sustainably, in consultation with the appropriate technical experts.

A minimum 10-star energy efficiency rating should be set for all new buildings. The fitting of all feasible energy efficiency measures to existing houses would be required upon lease changes, building renovations, etc, and owner-occupiers subsidised for the costs. Renters would be allowed to use the same system. A program to install photovoltaic solar panels and solar hot water heaters on home roofs would be started immediately and subsidised or owned by the electricity authority. Commercial buildings would be given a deadline to meet six-star energy standards within two years, and 10-star standards within 10 years.

The logging of old-growth forests would be stopped and an urgent program of re-forestation and protecting biodiversity begun to ensure a robust biosystem that can survive the stress of climate change, and to provide an increased carbon sink.

Industrial farming based on fossil-fuel fertilisers, pesticides and fuels must end, and farming areas restricted to ensure that riverine, forest and other indigenous ecosystems return to healthy states. Assistance would be given to transfer farming to organic practices and decentralise it to include urban farming. This process must be undertaken at a rate that ensures food security, and guarantees continuing work and livelihood for farming communities.

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