A document that outlines 14,000 conversations about climate change from across the nation says that the majority of Australians want a stronger emphasis on renewable energy, leadership on climate issues and support businesses being held responsible for their pollution.
The 100% Renewable Energy group -- an amalgamation of 110 different Australian climate action groups -- organised 72 of those groups to conduct 14,000 interviews between February and June this year. The results of these interviews will be presented in a report at lunchtime today to MPs from the Multi-party Climate Change Committee at Parliament House (you can check out the report online here
Conversations were conducted by 800 volunteers in all states and territories across Australia and in key electorates that covered 12 members of Cabinet, 15 members of the Shadow Cabinet and all members of the cross-bench.
The conversations covered a set number of four questions and then the opportunity to give their opinion on renewable energy and climate policy. Examining the four questions, only 14% of respondents agreed that "the government was doing enough to support the development of clean renewable energy -- like wind and solar", while 77% disagreed. In addition, 86% of respondents said Australia should develop a plan to move to 100% renewable energy, and only 5% disagreed.
As always with polling, the tone and words of the questions obviously have some impact on the results. Rather than using the words "carbon tax" -- which some polls have chosen to use and obviously gives a more negative connotation to a price on carbon -- the 100% renewable energy report asked "Should Australia put a price on pollution so that businesses are made responsible for their pollution?" That question saw 17% reply "don't know" -- the highest of any of the questions, but 75% said a price a pollution was needed.
Another interesting question where the provocative wording may have played a part in the answers was the question "Should the government be implementing strong policy to support new jobs and investment in renewable energy?", which saw 91% of respondents answer 'yes'. The emphasis on "new jobs" may have played a role in the high number of affirmative response, since it's unlikely respondents would say they don't support "new jobs".
When asked whether the wording was a deliberate attempt to make respondents support a climate tax, spokesperson for 100% Renewable Energy, Dean Bridgfoot told Crikey:
"There's a whole heap of misinforamtion about jobs lost due to the carbon tax, but we wanted to say there is great reseach that says renewable energy creates jobs more than and will inherently provide more jobs in regional areas. We wanted to gout and share that information.
Bridgfoot noted that their research wasn't a scientific poll: "We're not social scientists, we're supporters and community groups and want to have conversations in depth. We don't want to have a 30 second phone poll, we want to hear what people really think about these issues."
Regardless, excerpts of the 14,000 conversations about climate change make for interesting reading. "Many hundreds of comments centred around the theme 'What are we waiting for?', with 'Lets get on with it!' being the most common phrase heard in all comments from around the country," said the report. One of the examples offered was 92-year-old Dot, from Campbell's Creek, Victoria, who said "Go ahead with renewable energy. God gave us a brain and it’s up to us to use it. There has been enough talk."
Another key theme that cropped up was the emphasis on needing to implement renewables for the sake of our future. "Investment in renewable energy is the solution for the long term -- Make a decision to leave a legacy that generations will remember, not a decision just to get back into government!" said Mike from Sandgate, Queensland.
The report suggests that compensation for a carbon price should "direct significant new funds to the development of renewable energy and supplement them by winding backsubsidies to polluting industries. These should be used to implement a national feed-in tariff, or similar measures such as loanguarantees administered at arm’s length from government by a renewable energy finance fund."
Long term, the group would like to see Australia completely reliant on renewable energy sources. Short term, it would like to see more investment in renewable projects of varying sizes.
Additional questions were asked about the misinformation around renewable energy, the need for the government to stand up to big polluters and the potential of renewable energy to help tackle energy price rises, with another report due to be released in coming weeks.