The New South Wales, South Australia and Australian Capital Territory governments have created a new multi-state, cross party initiative to try and fast track the shift to zero emissions, with a focus on proven and mature technologies.
The Net Zero Emissions Policy Forum has been initiated by the NSW, ACT and SA governments to help sub-national jurisdictions – who tend to have more ambitious policies than national governments – address the practical challenges of achieving net zero emissions.
“Taking action on climate change is an economic and environmental imperative, and this is about ensuring states and territories are working together to address it,” NSW energy minister and treasurer Matt Kean said in a joint statement.
The forum is focused on getting the policies right and managing resources to enable sub national governments to grow their economies “without reinventing the wheel” and deploy “proven and mature capabilities” as well as solutions to address common obstacles in reaching net zero emissions.”
This is in contrast to the federal government’s own technology roadmap, which ignores the potential of existing technologies to deliver substantial reductions in emissions in the short term, and instead focuses on unproven technologies to deliver emissions cuts some time in the future.
The three states and territories involved in this deal are all leaders in the transition to renewables in Australia.
The ACT (Labor-Greens government) has already decarbonised its electricity supply through a series of contracts with large scale wind and solar farms, and is now targeting transport and building infrastructure.
South Australia (Liberal) leads the world in the uptake of wind and solar in its own grid, and is aiming for “net 100 per cent renewables by 2030, and is likely to reach that benchmark well before then. It also has a longer term “500 per cent” renewables ambition that will focus on green energy exports through hydrogen and ammonia.
NSW, meanwhile, remains the state with the biggest coal fleet in the country, but its Coalition government is planning a massive flip to renewables over the coming decade to replace the majority of the coal generators that will retire over that period.
It’s not ruling out replacing all its coal fired generation within a decade if those plants are no longer viable, and even the federal government’s emissions trajectories predict the state will reach 84 per cent renewables by 2030.
“Taking action on climate change is an economic and environmental imperative, and this is about ensuring states and territories are working together to address it,” Kean said in the statement.
“Greenhouse gas emissions do not recognise borders, and to tackle climate change we need a globally collaborative approach and that is what this forum is about.”
ACT Chief Minister and the minister for climate action,Andrew Barr said the forum will provide a shared suite of tools to address the policy challenges of achieving net zero emissions.
“Sub-national Governments have a vital role to play in getting to net zero emissions because we have some of the most important levers such as transport, buildings and energy,” Barr said.
“This forum will drive a more collaborative approach to developing the policies to get to net zero emissions.
The SA Minister for environment and water David Speirs said speeding up the transition to net zero and solve the technical, economic and policy problems of getting there.
“We are encouraging sub-national governments around the world to join, and help create the low carbon jobs and industries of the future while making sure we leave a better planet to our children and grandchildren,” he said.
The Forum is an Under2 Coalition initiative supported by the Climate Group and ClimateWorks Australia, and is timed with a focus on the role of sub-national governments at the Glasgow COP26 climate talks.
It will be directed by a ministerial Group which will set the priorities for research and collaboration. NSW will chair the Ministerial Group for the first 12 months. As the forum grows, it is expected that it will be co-chaired by a leading subnational government from overseas.