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Community

27 October, 2020

Youth engage candidates on climate

A group of local young people met with candidates for the upcoming election at Yorkey’s Knob Beach last Friday, October 23 to ask them to commit to strong climate action.

By Tanya Murphy

LNP Candidate Linda Cooper got a selfie with Australian Youth Climate Coalition members Holly Farnan, Garrett Swearingen and Jasper Farnan last Friday, but did not agree to the renewable energy targets they requested.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) members met with Barron River Greens candidate Aaron McDonald, Australian Labor Party (ALP) candidate Craig Crawford, Liberal-National Party (LNP) candidate Linda Cooper and the Cairns Greens candidate Daniel Dench.

The AYCC made their demands clear with a beach sign spelling out ‘Clean Recovery’ on Yorkey’s Knob beach, and performed a demonstration of the threatening effects of sea level rise.

Barron River LNP Candidate Linda Cooper posted a selfie with the AYCC members but did not agree to match the ALP’s commitment to achieve 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 through a $500 million investment in publicly-owned renewables such as wind and solar backed by battery storage.

Ms Cooper told Cairns Local News that one of the LNP’s major contributions to renewables would be pursuing the controversial Bradfield Scheme project, a plan to pump water from Far North Queensland’s rivers up to the top of the Great Dividing Range, before diverting it across the state to eventually end up in Lake Eyre in South Australia.

The scheme has been rebutted on scientific, engineering and economic grounds, as it's estimated it could cost upwards of $15 billion and take more than a decade to construct. The scheme has also been slammed by conservation groups due to the impact it would have on riverways and the Great Barrier Reef.

“We’re calling on all the candidates to support a ‘Clean Recovery’ from COVID-19,” said James Cook University (JCU) student Garrett Swearingen, 20.

“The candidates attended and we appreciated the seriousness of their responses. However, the LNP and ALP candidates did not demonstrate any willingness to improve upon their current policies which fall short of the actions required to reduce the effects of the ongoing climate crisis.

“The AYCC Cairns group will continue to work with the local community to push for a Clean Recovery and a commitment from all parties to meet our election asks.

“First, we are asking for construction of 4 gigawatts of publicly-owned renewables through existing state-owned power generators over the next 3 years.

“Second, we are asking for no public money to be spent on fossil fuel projects, especially polluting gas projects and infrastructure, and the state government must not facilitate federal funds for gas.”

Fellow JCU student Holly Farnarn, 20, told the candidates she was scared for her future.

“There isn’t a single second of each day where I don’t experience ‘climate anxiety. Not only does a changing climate threaten our endemic species and fragile World Heritage ecosystems, it threatens our livelihoods," said Holly.

“Living in a regional area, we are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change on public health, food and water availability and economic stability.”

Eight-year-old Jasper Farnan told candidates the climate was getting too hot for animals on the Great Barrier Reef.

“They can’t hide in aircon like us. We need to get rid of dirty coal and gas and use our sun and wind energy for power,” he said.

On Monday, the AYCC also launched a billboard on the corner of Abbott and Spence Streets in Cairns with a picture of Premier Annastacia Palasczcuk and opposition leader Deborah Frecklington and the slogan “Young Queenslanders have a message: Ditch Dirty Gas! Renewable Energy Now!”

“As a Cairns local I don’t see how Annastacia Palasczcuk or Deb Frecklington can claim to care about the North on one hand, and then approve destructive gas projects that will harm the reef on the other,” said Mr Swearingen.

“Queensland is one of the sunniest and windiest places in the world, and if we want an economic recovery that gives people like me and my friends a reason to stay in Cairns, rather than moving south, a Clean Recovery powered by renewables is the way to go.”

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