By TILEAH DOBSON
It’s a federal election year, with Australians set to hit the polls to vote for their preferred candidates and parties. Whether the Liberal-National Coalition retains control or Labor takes the helm will be known by the month of May at the latest.
While the election date is yet to be announced, that hasn’t stopped politicians hitting the campaign trail early and polls canvassing voters’ opinions. The latest poll conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Climate Council of Australia has found the majority of NSW voters believe cleaner energy is the way of the future.
The poll of more than 1,000 people covered rural, regional and metropolitan areas of NSW. It found that 60 per of respondents believe the state’s economic future rests in cleaner industries. These industries include renewable energy sources, critical minerals like lithium and cobalt, and the manufacturing of renewable goods.
At the other end of the spectrum, only 21 per cent believe the future lies in coal and gas. NSW is currently the home of the world’s largest coal port, located in Newcastle.
Significantly, over two-thirds, 68 per cent, hold the opinion that jobs in the renewable energies sector are the best best for future employment, while a meagre 19 per cent backed fossil fuels.
The poll also found that 62 per cent of NSW voters believe the government’s top investment priority should be in renewables, ahead of 15 per cent for coal and 17 per cent for gas.
Sixty-four per cent of voters agree more cuts to carbon emissions will bring economic benefits to workers and 66 per cent say further cuts will benefit businesses.
Six in ten respondents to the survey agree that regional areas will benefit most from the global transition to renewables.
Only two in ten voters believe workers in the fossil fuel sector are getting enough support to prepare for a future with less coal and gas.
Australia could be ‘clean industry and renewables superpower’
Leading economist and Climate Councillor Nicki Hutley sees these results as a positive step towards a cleaner future.
“This polling reveals that the people of NSW know the era of coal and gas is coming to a close as the world decarbonises. They strongly support investment in new, clean industries to future-proof jobs and secure our economic prosperity,” Hutley said.
“The historical coal and gas heartlands have a huge opportunity to grasp the economic rewards of the global transformation, and the people see this. Significantly, voters recognise that further cuts to carbon emissions – critical if we are to keep global warming in check – will increase jobs and lift economic growth.
“The federal government should pay attention to this public groundswell of support for clean industries and and commit to credible carbon cuts this critical decade. The government can play a huge role in helping NSW harness its immense natural advantages and put it on a path to becoming a clean industry and renewables superpower,” she said.
Poll reinforces ‘what everyday Australians have been saying’
CEO of The Next Economy, Dr Amanda Cahill has praised the findings, saying it reinforces what everyday Australians have been saying.
“This poll reaffirms what I’ve been hearing on the ground. Workers, businesses and investors are ready to take advantage of the opportunities in the new economy, but they need the government to back them in with clear targets, regional development funding and planning support,” Dr Cahill said.
“The countries we export to are already on the road to net zero emissions and we have a choice – help them do it or lose out on those new export opportunities.”
Geoff Bragg, a solar installer from Armidale, has agreed that the key to future employment is in the renewable energies industry.
“I’ve been working in renewables since 2001 and I can’t keep up with demand. There’s a critical shortage of local workers in solar and batteries around here and not enough training,” Bragg said.
“We’ve had two tornadoes in Armidale recently and there are lots of solar systems to repair and maintain.
“There should be accreditation for all electricians in renewable energy and a requirement for the big renewable projects to use local workers. We need more support.”
Tileah Dobson is the news and queer editor of the Sydney Sentinel.