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Building renewables to benefit nature and communities

Wollongong_rally.jpgA recent story on the ABC's Four Corners program has highlighted some of the details of who is opposing the development of renewable energy in Australia. There is very understandable opposition to specific projects where the ecological impacts of specific proposals will be too high. While FoE supports a rapid transition to 100% renewables, we do not support individual projects which will result in the loss of significant vegetation or fragment intact ecosystems.

However the ABC report also highlighted some of the forces that are aligning themselves with anti renewables campaigns around the country. From selfish NIMBY (not in my backyard) campaigners, to proponents of coal, gas and nuclear power, to conservative political forces and parties, and conspiracy theorists, there are many bad actors who are seeking to stir up opposition and inflame misinformation about renewables projects.

We appreciate that the ABC has exposed some of these groups.

We have joined with a range of other environmental groups to make our position on renewables and nature clear by signing this statement.

Building renewables to benefit nature and communities 

Nature destruction is fuelling Australia’s extinction crisis, so protecting nature should inspire and guide the needed transition to a renewable powered Australia. 

We are united in backing renewable energy for Australia’s energy future and calling on federal and state governments to play a more active role in listening to hosting communities and helping them make the transition. 

To create a future where nature thrives in a stable climate, we must transform the way we power our lives by replacing coal and gas with wind and solar. This means powering everything we can – our homes, transport, cities, farms, industries and exports – with renewables.  

Renewable energy, when it’s well-sited and managed, is a benefit to nature because it helps combat global warming fuelled by burning gas and coal, which poses a grave risk to nature and is already pushing some species towards extinction.  

We need big new renewable energy projects and transmission lines connecting solar and wind farms to the grid, but new energy projects can’t come at the expense of the animals, plants, oceans, rivers, forests and places we love and depend on. 

Phasing out gas and coal and powering everything we can with renewables is a big task, but we’ve got to start with a basic premise: our energy transition should benefit people and nature. 

The roll out of renewable energy infrastructure can happen while preserving and restoring biodiversity. There is absolutely no need, on our over-cleared continent, to knock down rainforests or irreplaceable wildlife habitat for renewable energy projects.  

This is why it is so important the federal government reforms our national nature law to make sure it is fit for purpose and state governments make planning laws clearer.

Of course, every renewable energy project must be assessed for its environmental impact, which will mean avoiding some locations. 

Stronger and clearer laws would guide all projects, give the community and industry certainty, set limits of acceptability, be designed to protect species and prevent extinction and in doing so create momentum for the necessary big renewables build. Moreover, any development in the oceans must consider the impacts on marine life and follow strict regulatory controls. 

Nature is itself a climate solution. Healthy forests, oceans, wetlands and mangroves store carbon and help limit climate damage, as well as being home to the wildlife we love. 

So we need to make sure nature is protected and thriving as we build our renewable powered future. 

The transition to a renewable powered Australia must be done in partnership with the Traditional Owners who have cared for their Country for thousands of generations. 

First Nations Peoples have a deep and lasting connection to Country and have cared for, shaped and managed land and sea for millennia. This knowledge should guide our transition to an Australia powered by wind and solar. 

Traditional Owners must approve and benefit from energy projects built on their Country. They must be involved in the creation and throughout the life of energy projects. 

We were pleased to see the recent federal budget include $168.1 million to ‘prioritise approval decisions for renewable energy projects of national significance’, including $20.7 million to ‘improve engagement with communities involved in the energy transition.’ This is needed to help combat disinformation about renewable energy.

Nuclear power is a non-solution to our energy challenges. Going nuclear would delay the transition to clean energy, increase household electricity bills, introduce the possibility of catastrophic accidents and create multi-generational risks associated with the management of high-level nuclear waste.

Our future is renewable, powered by energy that’s good for people and the places and wildlife they love. 

Signed by:

Australian Conservation Foundation

Australian Marine Conservation Society

BirdLife Australia

Conservation Council of West Australia 

Environment Centre NT

Friends of the Earth Australia

Greenpeace Australia Pacific 

Mineral Policy Institute 


Sea Shepherd Australia

Smart Energy Council 

Voices of the Valley

Wilderness Society



See also Queensland groups’ Shared Statement on Building Renewables to Benefit Nature and Communities 

HEADER IMAGE: community event on the Wollongong foreshore celebrating renewable energy for the Illawarra. FEB 2024.

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