Climate change and renewable energy was always going to be a big election issue. John Howard came out of the blocks early with his clean energy target to increase renewable energy and so called ‘clean coal’. The ALP trumped it today with their announcement of a target to achieve 20% renewable energy by 2020.Whenever there is talk of numbers, percentages, Gigawatts and Megawatt hours there is a risk of obfuscation – lies, damn lies and statistics as the saying goes. It turns out that the Coalition’s clean energy target is largely a repackaging of existing state based renewable energy schemes, making it sound much bigger than it actually is. It also includes the oxymoronic ‘clean coal’ – which is neither clean nor renewable.

But it looks like the ALP target is the real deal – a genuine target for roughly 20% of our energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.

Some of the details will still need clarification but this will be a real boost to Australia’s renewable energy industries and will deliver at least 15,000 GWh more renewable energy than the Coalition’s clean energy target; equivalent to enough additional renewable energy to supply two million Australian households.

Importantly, the target should be adequate to support further manufacturing jobs in Australia and will help reverse the trend of renewable energy companies leaving Australia for greener pastures.

It is a positive step in the right direction, and the ALP should be commended for it. However we will need to go much further in order to avoid dangerous climate change. This means bolder renewable targets in the future so we can slash our greenhouse emissions. And it means calling a halt to the expansion of the coal industry. If we simply have a renewables sector growing alongside an ever expanding coal sector, we will not stop climate change.

Both major parties are supporting the massive expansion of the coal industry and neither major party has committed to a short-term target to reduce greenhouse emissions – and this is what we really need to make sure emissions go down. Greenpeace is calling for mandatory cuts of overall emissions by 30% by 2020.

So let the election and the policy bidding war continue. Both major parties still have a long way to go if they’re to have any serious credibility on climate change.