Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg has again labelled the opposition Labor Party’s stated emissions reduction target of 45 per cent as “recklessly high,” and designed to satisfy those at the “extremes of the debate.”
The comments, made at the Energy Users Association of Australia Future Thinking conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, comes amid an intense debate about climate policy, particularly in the energy sector.
More and more analysts say Australia will sail past the government’s stated 2030 target of a 26 per cent cut in electricity emissions by 2030 as early as 2020, and could easily achieve a 45 per cent cut over the following decade.
Indeed, the Climate Change Authority, the independent body set up by the Lsbor government to advice on climate policy options, recommended a country-wide target of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030.
French president Emmanuel Macron delivered a barely disguised rebuke of Australia’s climate policy in his first speech in the country on Tuesday night, urging the Turnbull government to show the “power of conviction” on climate change.
The Coalition’s weak climate goals are under increasing criticism, as not nearly high enough to drive either meaningful reductions in carbon pollution, or the shift to a low-carbon energy market.
Speaking at a separate conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia said the Coalition’s ambition on emissions reduction was “pitiful,” and would be achieved through a combination of business as usual, and hope.
“The (federal) government’s approach to meeting the 26-28 per cent national emissions reduction objective by 2030 is hope,” BNEF’s Kobad Bhavnagri told the Carbon Market Institute’s 2018 Emissions Reduction Summit.
“A hope that the economy will just continue to more or less accidentally decarbonise,” and hopefully, he added, with the help of “some fluke technologies that we can adopt from other places.”
“The target is very, very weak. And (a target of 26 per cent reduction in emissions for the power sector) is a problem for not only the power sector, but also for the rest of the economy.”
Frydenberg, however, told the EUAA conference on Wednesday that his government’s 26-28 per cent targets were consistent with the Paris accord.
“For the federal government, it is the right number. And we believe that a 26 per cent reduction in our emissions, in the electricity sector, will provide the right investment signals to the market to generate the right investment in the right place at the right time.
“What we won’t do,” he added, “is we won’t set recklessly high targets.
“(That’s) the alternative. (Labor) have a recklessly high target.
“We think we’ve got a balanced and considered target, but what we won’t do is take action that compromises the reliability and the affordability of our electricity system, merely to satisfy some on the extremes of the debate.”
Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler drew attention to the admission at the Emissions Reduction Summit by Nationals MP Damian Drum that “Yeah, our emissions are going up” and that the government has “got some problems with Paris.”
“Under the Abbott-Turnbull government, carbon pollution has continued to go up, because the government is too divided on the indisputable realities of climate change to deliver real climate action and a real commitment to the Paris Accords,” Butler said in a statement.