The devastating bushfires that raged throughout last summer should have marked a turning point for climate policy in this country. And yet our federal government has since signalled that it intends to pour more money into the fossil fuel industry through carbon capture and storage programs and a rule change that will pay big polluters to reduce emissions.
It appears determined to promote the gas sector, instead of backing this country to export renewable energy to the world.
But while the highly paid fossil fuel industry lobbyists who hold so much sway in Canberra may argue otherwise, carbon capture and storage simply doesn't work.
It is expensive and has shown negligible results, while the mechanism to pay emitters to reduce pollution hasn't delivered on its promise so far. And like it or not, gas is a polluting fossil fuel, just like coal.
By helping to prop up polluting industries instead of unlocking the vast economic potential of renewable energy technologies, the federal government is signalling to regional communities that they are in this fight alone.
Farmers for Climate Action is a movement of farmers, rural Australians and agricultural leaders working to ensure that farmers, who are on the front lines of the damage, are part of its solution. As CEO, I speak with primary producers and community leaders who are doing everything within their power to shore up a future for themselves on the land, and to keep feeding and clothing Australians, and taking our highly regarded food and fibre to the world.
It is clear to most of us now that climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, is putting rural and regional people at an increased risk of droughts, floods and bushfires. So it is exasperating that successive federal governments have failed to fully recognise and embrace all the exciting possibilities that taking action on climate change could offer regional people.
A lack of proper climate policy has meant regional areas have largely missed out on the jobs and opportunities offered by renewable energy generation, carbon farming and regenerative agriculture. Industries that could today be reinvigorating country towns across Australia.
As we begin to move into a post-COVID-19 future, Australians are presented with a unique opportunity to reimagine the type of country that they want to live in. Investing in infrastructure projects that champion our farmers and regional communities - not big polluting industries - would be a great way to start.
Wendy Cohen is the CEO of Farmers for Climate Action.
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