The ACT government – which the ability to have a veto over the national Energy Guarantee – has laid out its conditions for approval of the controversial policy platform, and they won’t please the climate deniers in the Coalition party room.
In a debate in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday, energy minister Shane Rattenbury (Greens), and chief minister Andrew Barr (Labor) said Australia needed to raise the ambition of the country’s emissions reduction target “right now.”
And that underlines its conditions of approval. The ACT wants a review mechanism built into the scheme so that Australia’s progress against the level of emissions reduction necessary to meet the Paris climate treaty can be assessed at “reasonable intervals.”
The Coalition is seeking to lock in its weak target – of just 26 per cent for the electricity sector – until 2030, despite its own analysis that this target will be met by 2022.
“Five years is still too long a period to lock in a target,” Barr said on Thursday.
“It must be possible to ramp up the target, to flexibly adjust, and ensure we are making adequate progress on cutting our emissions and preventing harmful climate change.”
Barr also insisted that state-based targets, such as the ACT’s goal of 100 per cent renewable supply for electricity, must be additional to the NEG.
“If the ESB framework can accommodate additional voluntary action through GreenPower, then there should be no technical reason why it cannot also accommodate additional state and territory effort,” he said.
“Canberra households have put their money where their values are in supporting our transition to 100 per cent renewable electricity. We will not let our community’s leadership on renewables become the excuse for other parts of Australia doing less.
Barr said the Energy Security Board’s proposed framework was for voluntary emissions reductions by consumers who choose to buy GreenPower can be recognised, but fails to do this for state and territory targets.
“In effect, the ACT, Victoria and Queensland will be doing all the heavy lifting of national emissions reduction through our ambitious schemes,leaving states like New South Wales to freeload on our efforts. That isn’t fair and it isn’t good enough.”
CoAG energy ministers were due to vote on the NEG next Friday (August 10), but this will be conditional at best, and will likely be delayed given the Labor states will not give their imprimatur as long as the Coalition party room is agitating for changes.
Barr indicated that final agreement on the NEG may not emerge for months, but said that if the Coalition government could agree to these demands, “then this will go a long way towards securing the ACT’s agreement to sign on.”
“We should be under no illusion about the internal Liberal and National Party contortions or compromises of principle that have led to the NEG’s development,” he said.
“We should not brush past the fact that real damage has been done to the security and reliability of our electricity networks, and the new jobs and investment pipeline, because this policy debate has gone on far longer than it should have.”