The Australian Labor Party is being pushed by grass-roots members within its organisation and from without to commit to bold climate and clean energy targets, including 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and a 50 per cent cut in emissions by the same date.
The push by the Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN), a non-factional grouping co-founded by former NSW state premier Chrstina Keneally, is being supported by a range of environmental groups.
Labor is holding its national conference in two weeks, and its platform on climate and clean energy appears long on rhetoric, but short on details and actual commitments.
Although it has expressed its commitment to reaching the UNs 2C target, and has promised to re-instate a carbon price, it has not engaged any specific emission reduction targets.
Neither has it narrowed down a renewables target, although it has undertaken to at least partially reverse the cuts imposed by the Abbott government and to look at mechanisms that could underpin the industry beyond 2020.
LEAN is proposing a 50 per cent renewables target by 2030, and a 50 per cent cut in emissions by the same date. This latter sits in the middle of the 40-60 per cent cuts recommended by the Climate Change Authority.
According to Felicity Wade, the co-convenor of LEAN, the plan has the support of some 340 branches that the group has quietly lobbied in the past 18 months. She says this is an unprecedented expression of grass roots concern.
LEAN is concerned that the lack of any binding targets will send a poor message to the electorate.
“LEAN believes the only way for Labor to survive the politics of climate change is to embrace it as an issue which we believe in and will do what it takes to deliver,” Wade says.
“We must own it and argue for it. While last in government it was our detour into a tactical rather than a conviction-based approach on this issue that sowed the seeds of the problem it became.”
The current government – with the support of Labor – has slashed the large scale renewable energy target to 33,000GWh from 41,0000GWh, effectively cutting the share of renewables in 2020 to around 23 per cent, from nearly 30 per cent where it might have been if the policy had been untouched.
State labor governments have strong commitment to renewables. ACT has a 90 per cent target by 2020, South Australia has a 50 per cent target by 2025, although it will likely reach that level well before then (it already sits at 40 per cent), and Queensland is also suggested a 50 per cent target.
Victoria is looking at how it can boost renewables in its state. Even Coalition states such as Tasmania (already near 100 per cent renewables) and NSW have expressed support for further renewables development.
And four state ALP state conferences: NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have endorsed LEAN’s resolution for the adoption of the Climate Change Authority’s pollution reduction targets.
The previous position of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 – which was Australia’s target until the Abbott government revoked it along with the carbon price – has been superseded, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggesting developed nations will need to be close to net zero emissions by mid century.
Wade – an advisor within NSW Oppoition leader Foley’s office – says Labor has to change the narrative and make the ransition of the energy sector “ a grand opportunity to create jobs, innovation and investment.”
LEAN’s position has also been endorsed by a coalition of clean energy, community and environment groups, including Solar Citizens, GetUp, Oxfam, and the Wilderness Society.
“Small target politics is failing,” said GetUp! National Director Sam McLean. “The ALP is concerned that having a decent vision and plan will bring on a scare campaign from Tony Abbott.
“But everyone knows that you need to stand up to a bully, not cower in a corner and hope he goes away. It’s time for the ALP to offer us a government that’s in line with the rest of the world and develop a strong policy platform that will harness the clean power boom and deliver for the Australian people.”