Church Calls for Green Dollars

18 September 2004

Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton today said that the environment is in crisis and ensuring responsible behaviour by industry must be a core priority for the next Federal Government.

"Government policies must promote the responsible management, use and occupation of the earth by human society. The environment must be a fundamental consideration across all policy areas, but there is a need for specific focus on agriculture, the resources sector, and industry policy as this is where the majority of environmental destruction occurs.

"Long-term environmental objectives have played second fiddle to short-term productivity gains and export ambitions for far too long. Policies that focus on economic growth without sufficient consideration of sustainability and environmental responsibility undermine both our environmental and economic security in the long-term.

"Addressing environmental crises as they emerge is necessary but will not prevent future problems. We must learn from the past and ensure environmentally responsible economic decisions to avert future crises.

"Our industries need to consider the environment at the beginning rather than end of their activities so that our environmental and economic ambitions are not constantly set on a collision course.

"Governments need to ensure that the dollars and the environment are given equal weight in decision making and policy initiatives. Currently, economic imperatives dictate general policy directions whilst environmental initiatives follow as band-aids applied to the wounds created by the government-endorsed activities of our industries."

UnitingJustice National Director, Rev. Elenie Poulos said the Church welcomed initiatives by both major parties which acknowledged our need for clean and renewable energy.

"We welcome the Labor Party's commitment to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, fund low-emission projects and pursue export opportunities in sustainable energy. We also welcome the Liberal Party's commitment to funding low-emission technologies and supporting Solar Cities trials.

"However, almost all of Australia's electricity comes from burning coal. Our domestic use of clean energy has to become a top priority and while we are pleased that the Labor Party has committed to an increase in the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 5%, we seek a commitment to increase the target to 10% by 2010 with further increases into the future set in advance to encourage the transition to renewable energy.

"It is not only our national consumption of fossil fuels that we need to consider. Our role as the world's largest coal exporter sees Australia promote the use of carbon-dioxide emitting energy sources in other nations. Australia's role as the world's largest coal exporter is not being adequately addressed.

"Australia needs to undertake a thorough review of the environmental implications of our energy resources export industry, with a view to formulating a long-term plan for the development of more environmentally friendly exports.

"We need a long-term industry plan that supports the development of fossil fuel alternative technologies and clean and renewable energy so that Australia can build a new energy resources export market that is not set on a collision course between our environmental and economic objectives," Rev. Poulos said.