Western Australia’s Labor government has bowed to increasing pressure to develop a new and improved climate change policy for the state, perhaps signalling the end its status as the only state in Australia without a renewable energy target or net zero emissions target.
The McGowan government said in a statement this week the time was right to update the state’s existing 2012 climate policy, which was developed in the context of a national carbon price, long-since scrapped by the federal Coalition.
“Since then, there have been advances in climate science and changes in national policy,” the statement reads.
There has also been a fair bit of outside pressure on WA to lift its game.
In October, the state was ranked bottom of the class in the latest Climate Council report tracking state and territory transitions to renewable energy sources, thanks to the absence of both emissions reduction and renewable energy targets.
“We have very strong policies about renewable energy, to secure as much renewable energy in Western Australia as possible,” he said. “So we don’t have any plans to put in place a state target.”
But the party now seems to have changed its tune, just a little.
“The ongoing uncertainty at the national level has made it challenging for States and Territories to develop a considered response to climate change,” WA environment minister Stephen Dawson said in a statement on Wednesday.
“But there are measures we can take to ensure Western Australia is well-positioned in the face of rapid technological change and a changing climate – whatever the position of the Commonwealth Government.
“There’s more we can do to reduce the risks, the impacts and the costs. And there’s more we can do to improve the resilience of our communities and our environment.”
That said, there doesn’t seem to be any great rush to get these things done.
The broad plan, according to the media release, is to draw together and build on the state’s existing climate measures, including measures to enhance renewables, and co-ordinate the new policy over the next 12 months.
Still, the WA Greens say they are “thrilled” with the sign of progress.
“Though it feels like we have dragged the state government kicking and screaming, I am thrilled that McGowan … has finally acknowledged the need for a state-based climate change policy,” said Greens climate spokesperson Tim Clifford.
“I look forward to working with Environment Minister Stephen Dawson to ensure this policy includes concrete targets that will actively reduce emissions.”
But Clifford also note that the government’s recent announcement that it would open up to 5 million hectares of WA land to unconventional gas fracking would render any progress on climate change policy in the state null and void.
“If the WA Labor Government is as serious about climate change as they claim to be then they must legislate for a total ban on fracking,” he said.
*This article has been corrected to reflect that Stephen Dawson is Western Australia’s minister for the environment. A previous version mistakenly described him as minister for energy.