Victoria bill to lock in 50% renewable target passes through upper house

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Labor bill to legislate 50% renewables target passes upper house in Victoria, despite fierce opposition from Coalition.

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The Victorian Labor government bill proposing to boost the state’s legislated renewable energy target, or VRET, to 50 per cent by 2030 has been voted through parliament’s upper house.

The Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019 was passed on Thursday following several hours of debate, with 25 votes to 14 – and despite a strong show of opposition from the Liberal Party.

The 50 per cent target – building on the already legislated 40 per cent by 2025 target – was promised by the Andrews government in the lead up to last year’s state election, which Labor won convincingly on a pro-renewables platform.

It builds on the Andrews government’s original VRET legislation – to to source 25 per cent of its electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025 – which saw Victoria become the first Australian state to write its renewables target into law.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth said the Victorian Liberal party’s decision to vote against the increase to the target confirmed it had “not learned the lessons” of the state election.

“Its disappointing to see that the Victorian Liberal party has failed to learn the lessons of the 2018 state election, and are taking cues from climate deniers on the hard right fringe by voting against Victoria’s Renewable Energy Target once again,” said FoE’s Yes 2 Renewables Campaigner Pat Simons in a statement.

“While the federal Coalition continues to fail the public on climate change, Victoria’s decision to increase the state renewable energy target to 50 per cent Renewables by 2030 is a welcome step in the right direction that will create jobs in climate action across the state.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, Victorian Greens leader in the upper house, Samantha Ratnam, called for a target of 100 per cent renewables by 2030, as an appropriate response to what she described as a “climate emergency.”

This motion was not supported by the Liberal Party’s shadow minister for finance, Gordon Rich-Phillips, who said “we don’t support a climate emergency, we don’t support any other hysteria, and we won’t be supporting this amendment.”

Labor’s leader of the Legislative Council, Gavin Jennings, told the upper house that government was confident all of the state’s renewable energy targets could be met, through a combination of policy, science, technology, innovation and the market.

“Is it doable? Of course it’s doable,” Jennings said. “We’re going to exceed 2020, meet 2025 easily, and we’re very confident we’re going to meet 2030.”

Jennings also said the Andrews government was supportive of the science and of the urgency of the task of cutting emissions, and of giving hope to the state’s youth.

“That’s where our centre of gravity is, and that’s where our commitment lies,” he said.

“The government is of the view that this bill strikes the right balance at this point in time… we are not arguing about the science.

“There’s been some terrible resistance [to the science of climate change] by grumpy old men…around the planet.”

The bill will now proceed back to the lower house with amendments before finally being written into law, while attention will shift to the government’s setting of economy-wide Emissions Reduction Targets for the state.

Friends of the Earth say the litmus test for the Andrews government will be whether it will set science-based targets that keep warming well below 1.5°C.

“The increased renewable energy target shows the Andrews government has a plan to cut emissions in the electricity sector in a way that creates climate jobs,” said Act on Climate spokesperson Anna Langford.

“The Andrews government is taking the lead on climate action. This leadership paves the way for them to set strong, science-based emissions reduction targets next year.”

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