Opposition climate and energy spokesman Mark Butler has lambasted the federal Coalition government’s pathetic emissions target, its “silly” pursuit of new coal generators and promised a “furious” debate over climate policy in parliament.
In a speech to the Clean Energy Summit in Sydney on Tuesday, Butler said he supported a settled platform, such as the National Energy Guarantee, but warned that weak targets would be locked in.
“There is real risk that these pathetic settings will be embedded into federal law that proves very difficult to change in the future,” Butler said.
His comments came as Victoria’s energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Greens leader Richard di Natale warned there would be no approval for the NEG at next week’s CoAG energy ministers meeting if it was to be held hostage to a later Coalition party room meeting.
CoAG energy ministers are due to hold their meeting on August 10, but the Coalition government has indicated that emissions targets will not be discussed until another meeting held the following Tuesday, after a party room meeting. But it wants CoAG to commit support for the NEG on the Friday.
Di Natale said this ruse would not work. The Greens are playing a prominent role because the ACT climate and energy minister Shane Rattenbury is a Green, and has indicated he will not vote for the policy while emissions target remained so low.
“The Greens won’t sign up to the policy until and unless it is signed up by Coalition party room,” di Natale said. “That is the only way to be sure we are not signing a blind cheque.”
His position was echoed by Victoria’s energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who said the state Labor government “won’t rush into supporting a policy” just to appease the “coal ideologues” in Canberra
“Malcolm Turnbull is trying to get us to sign up to something that hasn’t gone to his own party room – a place full of climate sceptics,” D’Ambrosio said.
“Every time we get close to a national energy policy, the Coalition Party Room shoots it down. How can we have any confidence in what they’re asking from us if it hasn’t been through his party room first?
“We won’t support a scheme that leaves the states in the dark and leaves us all hostage to the extremists in Turnbull’s party room.”
The NEG has divided the clean energy industry, with the CEC saying it supported the platform, despite its reservations about emissions, and on other matters such as transparency, offsets, and questions about the impact on rooftop solar and storage.
The Smart Energy Council has opposed the NEG based on the weak target. Di Natale said: “Fight for the right policy., fight for a future where your industry thrives. The public knows renewables are the future, they know it will bring down pollution and it will bring down prices.”
Goldwind Australia’s John Titchen said the main issue with the NEG remained with the emissions policy, and left more than 90 per cent of the Paris climate task unaddressed.
“We should have steeper reductions in the first 5 years of 2020s …. then we would have options … to deliver more reductions if, as expected, it is required.”
Earlier, Butler was dismissive of what had been described as an olive branch by energy minister Josh Frydenberg for a “review” of the 2025-2030 targets in 2024.
“That is hopeless. A 2024 review would be asking a question when we already have an answer from the ESB (Energy Security Board) paper. We already know it is hopeless inadequate.”
That target, a 26 per cent cut in electricity emissions by 2030, would be met before the scheme even started in 2021, and would mean electricity would account for just 40 million tonnes out of the 900 million tonnes required to be eliminated to meet the country’s Paris climate target.
“This wold put pressure on other sectors, where abatement was clearly more expensive.
“This target will smash investment in a (renewable energy) sector that is doing so many great things for the Australian economy, particularly in regions,” he said.
Butler lamented the “silly pursuit” of new coal-fired generators by many in the Coalition party room, and noted the Minerals Council-funded trip by MP George Christensen to Japan to dry and drum up support for new coal generators.
“Hopefully the silliness of the new coal ideologues will recede further and further into the party room,” he said.
NSW energy minister Don Harwin, a Liberal, said he believed the NEG will “get us toward” where we want to be, and looked forward to hosting the CoAG meeting in Sydney on August 10.
“I think there is goodwill. It is tremendously important … not to make the perfect the energy, sorry, the enemy of the good.”