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Turnbull Government is wrong to pretend we can burn our way to climate safety

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The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years

The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years

This morning NASA and NOAA declared 2016 the hottest year on record. Sea ice is melting and the Arctic is warming at a rapid rate. Right now, the east coast of Australia is sweltering through heatwaves, and bushfires are blazing in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia.

The fact that we are in the midst of experiencing the impacts of dangerous global warming, made it all the more jarring when the Federal Government came out championing the big polluters that are driving global warming.

Over the last week, in an extraordinary display of cognitive dissonance, the Minister for Resources held a torch up for so called ‘clean coal,’  the Minister for the Environment spoke out in support of big gas corporations, and the Prime Minister of Australia espoused his support for coal.

The Minister for Environment kicked off the week by prosecuting the gas companies’ misleading war on supply constraints. He called – I believe recklessly – for states and territories to lift restrictions on polluting fossil fuels in response this confected gas supply crisis.

There is no supply problem. The ‘problem’ is that successive governments have built export terminals and supported big gas companies to send gas offshore – forcing Australian households to compete with China and Japan to buy gas – rather than helping households to invest in cheap renewable energy.

Yesterday, the Minister for Resources threw his weight behind so-called ‘clean coal,’ and championed clean coal as the solution to Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions.

It is not possible burn your way to lower emissions. The only way that we will even come close to the ambition of the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris, is to leave the coal in the ground and rapidly transition to a clean energy powered economy.

Minister Frydenberg is right about one thing, energy security is very important. But, he is wrong that we will achieve it by digging up more coal and gas and further destabilising our climate.

Not only is it absurd to suggest that our clean energy future will be powered by digging up more coal, but it is economically irresponsible. As the cost of solar and wind drops around the world, it makes no sense to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into the outdated, and polluting, technologies of the past.

That’s why the ACT has decided that we cannot wait for the Turnbull Government to get its act together. All of our electricity will be powered by clean, renewable energy by 2020 and we have a plan to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest.

And we’re on track. By the end of this year, almost 30% of our electricity will be powered by the sun and the wind. By 2018 that will have risen to 50%, we will be powering over three quarters of our electricity with clean, renewable energy by 2019, and 100% by 202.

Minister Frydenberg’s calls for states and territories to lift restrictions on fossil fuels is a dangerous one, particularly when a lack of federal political leadership means it will largely fall to states and territories to take the next steps in shifting their economies towards our clean energy future.

The ACT is a great example of what subnational governments can achieve. We must not allow the federal government’s inaction to limit what we can achieve at a state and territory level, and state and territories.

Shane Rattenbury is the ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability.  

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  • DevMac

    When you’re driving, if you find that there is a tree in your way you should press the accelerator even harder to indicate to the tree that it must move because you’re sure the hell not going to.

    The car is the laws of physics, and the tree is human civilisation. Many people get this the wrong way round.

  • Chris Fraser

    Very true. These days I think the Prime Minister and most of his Ministers get taken with grain of salt. There are clean investors who do not appear to be listening.

  • Gary Rowbottom

    Well put Shane Rattenbury. We all need to express our thoughts on this to the politicians above, it is too important not to.

  • howardpatr

    Perhaps, by the next election voters, will have seen through Turncoat Turnbull and those like Frydenberg, Canavan, Abbott, Joyce, Hunt, Bernardi, etc, etc who direct his policies on anthropogenic climate change and the renewable energy future?

    It is deplorable that Australia still does not a national approach to energy – seems the LNP just aren’t up to such a challenge.

  • Peter Campbell

    Typo hanging on the end of the last sentence. Also 202 should be 2020.

  • Farmer Dave

    Congratulations, Shane, for the work you are doing to de-carbonise the ACT economy. It makes it so much harder for people to argue that it cannot be done when there is an example in front of them. I particularly enjoy the irony of the Federal Government’s being located in such a territory.

    I have not been to Canberra for some time, so you may already be doing this, but have you thought of having prominent signs on main roads into Canberra and at the airport showing the progress you have been making to 100% renewable electricity? It would be great for the Federal politicians to have that constant reminder.

    • Calamity_Jean

      “…have you thought of having prominent signs on main roads into Canberra and at the airport showing the progress you have been making to 100% renewable electricity?”

      What a great idea!

  • Greg Hudson

    G’Day Shane. How about you move to Victoria and give the locals here a kick up the renewable arse ? 😉

    • George Darroch

      Victoria have hired Simon Corbell to help them! They’re heading down the right track.

  • Radbug

    Actually, as I recall, Australian consumers now pay MORE for Curtis Island gas than Asian consumers. In this political culture where Malcolm Turnbull worships at the alter of free trade agreements, that situation sounds suspiciously like Dumping.

  • George Darroch

    Incredible leadership from the ACT Government (and now Victoria). If only others were so forward in their action.

  • 3 cheers for the ACT Government and its renewable energy policies!

    The Federal LNP seem to be living in a parallel universe where burning more fossil fuels is a good idea.