Natural values of Kosciuszko National Park must not be overlooked in Snowy 2.0

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has cautiously welcomed the federal government finally appearing to embrace renewable energy in the context of Snowy 2.0. But politicians still haven’t outlined how the scheme would avoid damaging the natural values of the unique alpine ecosystems and judgement must therefore be reserved.

NPA CEO, Mr Kevin Evans said: “The vulnerability of the alpine ecosystems to climate change encapsulates perfectly why we urgently need to transition to renewables.

“The Prime Minister couldn’t have picked a better case study to draw attention to the pending catastrophe that is climate change: as Kosciuszko warms, alpine plants and animals are forced to migrate higher to stay in their preferred climate. But of course they can only go so high before they run out of room. If we don’t act now, we risk greatly diminishing the alpine system and losing species found nowhere else in the country.

“But is Snowy 2.0 the answer? It may be, but we want to see lots more detail before we can make up our mind on that. We’ve waited all weekend for some of the many environment questions to be answered by politicians, but not much has been forthcoming. It’s unsettling that the environmental impacts do not seem to have been thought through.

“Pumped hydro is obviously the storage solution, but what fuel will be used to move the water up? If it’s more coal, then it’s just another press on the climate change accelerator.

“We don’t yet know how, or even whether, it will be possible to extract, temporarily store and then remove millions of tonnes of rock without damaging the National Park.

“We’re worried about impacts on rivers: how much of a reduction in through flows will the scheme result in? Will the government commit to an increase in environmental flows to compensate? Is that even possible under current flows and future climate forecasts?

“The water supply upon which the scheme would depend is not even secure now, let alone under rising climatic uncertainty. Wild horses impact 35% of alpine catchments and reduce both water quantity and water quality. Up to now, governments in NSW and Victoria have been slow to act on horse damage and the problem’s getting worse, not better.

“Can pumped hydro be done in less environmentally sensitive areas? Almost certainly so: abandoned mine sites combined with solar farms in close proximity to pump the water are actively being explored, and there are also investigations going on into pumped hydro using seawater which obviously negates the water issues.

“So the jury’s still very much out for us: it’s a big yes to renewables and storage, but not at any cost. The question the Prime Minister must answer in the coming days is whether the environmental costs are too high in Snowy 2.0.”

Media contact: Kevin Evans 0457 797 977

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