In a survey conducted on Wednesday night more than half of the 1500 voters polled by UComms agreed climate change had made the threat of bushfires worse.
About 42.9 per cent “strongly agreed” with the statement, while another 13.7 per cent agreed. A further 39.9 disagreed or strongly disagreed, and 3.5 per cent were unsure.
The polling commissioned by the Climate Council, also showed most Australians didn’t think the government was doing enough to reduce the impact of climate change on bushfires.
About 53.3 per cent thought the government should be doing more.
“The majority of Australians know fire seasons are getting worse because of climate change. They have heard the warnings from the scientists and firefighters,” Climate Council chief executive officer Amanda McKenzie said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been criticised for not meeting with 23 former fire chiefs and emergency services leaders in April, has said Australia’s domestic climate action had no bearing on individual fires raging across the country.
“To suggest that with just 1.3 per cent of global emissions that Australia doing something differently – more or less – would have changed the fire outcome this season, I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all,” he told ABC radio last week.
He said an international response was critical to addressing the issue.
“Climate change is a global phenomenon and we’re doing our bit as part of the response to climate change,” Mr Morrison said.
There are still 65 fires burning across NSW and dozens of bushfires also blazed across Victoria over the weekend. Queensland’s emergency declaration was lifted over the weekend following two weeks of ferocious fire conditions.
The extraordinary conditions have worried Australians, who are concerned about even worse conditions over summer.
However, Australians were less certain about the solution and whether coal should be phased out.
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About 8.9 per cent were unsure whether Australia should transition away from coal, while 47.9 per cent agreed or strongly agreed, compared with 43.2 per cent who disagreed.
When it comes to who should fund the bushfire recovery efforts, most Australians thought companies that profited from coal and gas should pay up.
“For too long, communities have just had to foot the bill for these fires. Whether it’s through higher insurance or bushfire taxes, we are paying for the damage caused by polluting industries,” Ms McKenzie said.
“The companies which have profited from coal and gas should be charged for the damage to people’s homes and the clean-up costs.”
Water has also become a growing concern and Australians overwhelmingly support bushfires and communities taking priority over coal mines when it comes to water use.
“Some communities in NSW are running out of water,” Ms McKenzie said. “Coal mines have exclusive access to billions of litres. This poll shows that 77 per cent of Australians believe communities and bushfires have to take precedence.”
The poll comes as a Climate Council report released today accused the federal government of obstructing the rollout of renewable energy at a state and territory level.
The report said a lack of a nationally consistent renewable energy policy set by the federal government was damaging investor confidence in the sector.
It noted that the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which has driven investment in renewables, was slashed in 2015 and in September this year the target was achieved. Unfortunately, the government has ruled out extending the target or introducing a new policy to replace it.
“With the exception of projects driven by state and territory renewable purchases, this federal policy vacuum is causing the investment pipeline for new large-scale renewable projects to decline sharply,” the report states.
“In 2019, new investment has fallen to levels last seen four years ago when Prime Minister Abbott was trying to abolish the RET.”
The report also compares the states and territories and rates them on their progress transitioning to renewables.
South Australia is the 2019 winner, followed by ACT and Tasmania.
South Australia now generates more than half of its electricity from wind and solar and is aiming for net 100 per cent renewable energy in the 2030s.
The ACT is on track to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy on January 1, 2020, which would make it the eighth jurisdiction in the world with a population above 100,000, to achieve this.
“States and territories are driving the transition to a renewable energy future, in the face of the federal government’s lack of leadership. As a result, several states and territories have declared the intention to go it alone on renewable energy policy,” Climate Councillor and energy expert Greg Bourne said.
“It is time for all states and territories to create their own forums for co-ordination and move on without the Federal Government,” he said.
The report found Victoria and Queensland were making good progress on the transition to renewable energy but NSW and WA were the only states without a renewable energy target. The Northern Territory ranks last or near the bottom on most other metrics.
However, NSW on Friday released an electricity strategy that includes Australia’s first co-ordinated renewable energy zone in the Central West region, and the rollout of energy efficiency technologies and smart appliances that use electricity when it is cheap and off-peak.
This week federal politicians returning to Canberra for the final parliamentary fortnight of the year will be greeted by organisations and individuals demanding action on climate change.
Organised by Climate Active Australia, the group of speakers includes the national president of the United Firefighters Union whose members have been battling many devastating fires across the country in the past couple of weeks.
It comes after state and territory energy ministers agreed to adopt a national hydrogen energy strategy at a meeting in Perth on Friday, with the federal government to pump $370 million into a fund aimed at building the industry.