It was important to see Tony Windsor yesterday highlight the fact that taking action on pollution and climate change can have significant benefits for rural and regional Australia.

This is a point that The Climate Institute and others consistently made during the campaign around the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). Early last year we put out a report on clean energy projects, planned or committed, which showed that billions of dollars and thousands of jobs could flow to local and regional communities because of action on clean energy and putting a limit and price tag on pollution.

The Climate Institute commissioned leading energy sector consultants, McLennan Magasanik Associates (MMA), to assess the potential contribution of renewable energy, such as wind, solar and bioenergy power stations, to regional employment in Australia. Some of the findings included:

  • Around 26,200 new jobs will be created if all planned and committed clean energy projects go ahead. This includes almost 2,500 new permanent positions, over 15,000 construction jobs and more than 8,600 indirect jobs in supporting sectors.
  • The expanded renewable energy capacity will see over 3,600 people directly employed in the clean energy industry on a permanent basis.
  • Over $31 billion will be invested in these new clean energy projects, injecting around $10 billion into local economies in regional Australia.

This echoed an earlier report that we had done with farmers’ federations and agribusinesses which also showed that harvesting clean energy, carbon farming and stewardship payments for land management can provide significant and additional revenue streams for regional Australia.

Just days after the election campaign Lord Nicholas Stern gave a timely reminder that there is significant global action, particularly in Asia, South America and Europe and that there will be significant penalties for those countries that continue to seek to delay to action.

The Climate Institute met with independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, immediately after their meeting with Lord Stern and we put to them and to the other independents some key next steps.

Chief of these is getting a limit and a price tag on pollution in the life of the next parliament but there are at least two other steps to get going building the jobs, skills and industries needed for the shift to a low pollution economy.

Now is the time to release the Prime Minister’s Energy Efficiency Task Group Report and to begin a process of implementation.

We also need to expose to sunlight the extent of global action and what that means for Australia’s targets and industry assistance claims. This should also reveal that, under bipartisan supported conditions, Australia’s commitments will need to be more than just the five percent reduction target. As Professor Ross Garnaut has said, Australia will be called on to do more.

Minority governments can be exciting and creative times. They will also be challenging times, there is no question. At the very least it will rebalance the power of argument against the power of advertising and confusion.

It is an opportunity not to be missed.

John Connor worked for independent member for Manly Dr Peter Macdonald during the balance of power years in NSW Parliament.