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The road to net zero runs through First Nations lands, powered by us

First Nations groups feeling a sense of urgency about the opportunities clean energy can bring in terms of access to energy, jobs, business development, and First Nations wealth generation on Country are calling for significant action and bold Federal Budget ambition at this year's First Nations Clean Energy Symposium happening in Adelaide on 8-9 May 2024.

Hosted by the First Nations Clean Energy Network, National Native Title Council and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, the Symposium brings together 350 First Nations leaders and community members, industry heads, union, academics and government representatives to put First Nations achievements to-date on the table, including 15 significant First Nations clean energy project partnerships, a clear narrative of engagement, consent and partnering, and policy settings revamped to prioritise early engagement, partnerships, equity, ownership and benefit-sharing. 

We will determine ‘where to next’, from spelling out what genuine engagement looks like, to tackling ongoing barriers with getting rooftop solar and reliable electricity, gaining consent, and negotiating equity and benefit-sharing for our community and major projects on Country.

We will also map the road to more significant First Nations clean energy partnerships on country. While Canada has over 200 large-scale revenue-generating projects that have Indigenous participation and ownership, and some 2,000 Indigenous-led projects from small- to medium-size, there are just 15 significant First Nations clean energy partnerships in Australia.

Significant investment, capacity building of our mob to lead community energy and engage equitably with major proponents, and access to finance through targeted investment vehicles are essential to drive the transition on First Nations lands. 

Chris Croker, co-Chair of the First Nations Clean Energy Network says: “We must lead and drive the transition we want in our homes, communities and nations, and deliver the energy security we need in this warming climate.

“None of us want a repeat of the past. 

“We know this is a massive opportunity, for jobs, business and wealth generation.

“We will ensure anything on Country starts with 3 C’s – Consent, Collaborate, Co-design, and it doesn’t stop there because we want Co-ownership too.

“Government has talked up First Nations partnerships in the energy transition, but where’s the action on the ground? There’s been no change in major policy or action.

“Talking going nowhere doesn’t help - we need to see policy turned into action, significant investment and access to capital similar to the unparalleled investment by the US into tribal nations and Canada into First Nations, Inuit and Métis. 

“Both the US and Canada understand the road to net zero runs through First Nations lands. We expect nothing less here in Australia.”

Karrina Nolan, co-Chair of the First Nations Clean Energy Network says: “This is our moment to ensure the clean energy revolution is done with us, not to us. 

“We are going to see an enormous amount of renewables and energy infrastructure built, if we consent, on our lands and waters. And this is the time to make sure our people and communities are powerful enough for our aspirations, our economic self determination, to be at the centre, and for the renewables revolution to be powered by us, on our terms.

“We understand we need to transition quickly away from fossil fuels, but we can’t fast track consent.  We have been clear about what meaningful early engagement looks like, enabling free prior and informed consent, a seat at the table, and investment in our participation, partnering, equity, and First Nations ownership of clean energy projects.

“We have some great examples internationally to look to and for the Federal government to draw on, such as the British Columbia Government in Canada requiring a minimum 25% Indigenous equity ownership on clean energy projects. That’s ambition, and we know it's possible to do that here.

“We have around 300,000 First Nations homes with unacceptable conditions in relation to accessing power. Let us reform policy and power these homes with renewables, switch out diesel generators, increase the energy efficiency of households, build in climate-resilient retrofits and build a local workforce at the same time.”

Kado Muir, Chair of the National Native Title Council says: “The extraction of resources from Country without Traditional Owner consent has been the economic foundation of Australia. 

“The clean energy revolution is an opportunity for industry and government to redress this exploitation and work to address this historic injustice, with Traditional Owners as equity partners in projects.

“Many clean energy projects are being rolled out on native title land. It is imperative that Traditional Owners' right to speak for their Country as rights holders is recognised and respected enabling them to secure benefits on their Country. This provides Traditional Owners and their representative institutions with real decision-making strength.

“The time is now and the opportunity is real to make a difference today. Access, equity and participation are not only about commercial opportunities but also have the potential to address underlying root causes of disadvantage and exclusion.”

Joe Morrison, CEO of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation says: “Our goal is to allow for knowledge sharing and stronger First Nations voices in all environment and energy-related activities. 

“The First Nations Clean Energy Symposium provides an opportunity to bring people together to share ideas about clean energy and the significant role that First Nations peoples play in combating the impacts of climate change.”