Australians Favor Clean Energy to Boost Economy Over Gas Plan
Wind turbines stand at the Capital Wind Farm in Bungendore, Australia. (Photographer: Mark Graham/Bloomberg)

Australians Favor Clean Energy to Boost Economy Over Gas Plan

Most Australians would prefer investment in clean energy to help lift the economy out of its Covid-induced recession to the government’s plan for a “gas-fired” recovery.

Just 12% of respondents in a survey commissioned by The Australia Institute supported the emphasis on gas in driving the revival, compared with 59% who said they would prefer renewable power to be central. The findings reflect growing concerns in a country ravaged by one of its worst bushfire seasons on record earlier this year, according to the climate-focused think tank.

“There is one clear message: most Australians want more renewables and less fossil fuels,” said Richie Merzian, AI’s climate and energy director. “That means phase out coal-fired power stations, bypass a gas-fired transition and plug into renewables to power their future.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has backed fossil fuels and refused to set any target to reach zero emissions even as key export markets including China and Japan pledge to intensify their efforts. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Morrison to take “bold action” on climate change, including a net-zero goal, in a phone conversation between the two leaders on Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald paper reported.

Last month, the government rolled out a suite of energy policy initiatives aimed at helping the economy pull out of its first recession in 30 years. They included incentives to develop new gas resources and pipeline infrastructure and a promise to build a new gas-fired generation plant if private operators didn’t commit to replacing a retiring coal power station.

Australians Favor Clean Energy to Boost Economy Over Gas Plan

Around 80% of those surveyed said Australia was already experiencing the impact from climate change, while 82% were concerned that global warming would make bushfires worse in the years ahead.

Opinion polls in Australia often show strong support for tougher action to combat climate change, but the evidence suggests that does not necessarily translate to votes. In the 2019 national election, the opposition Labor Party fought on a strong green platform, including a climate target that went beyond the country’s Paris Agreement commitments, yet the pro fossil fuels center-right Liberal Party still won with a bolstered majority.

The survey, conducted in July by YouGov on behalf of AI, questioned about 2,000 people spread evenly across Australia’s states and territories.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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