It is reassuring to hear a respected economist such as Professor Garnaut emphasise the importance of committing to 2020 targets and his warning that as climate change is proceeding faster than predicted, more urgent action is needed.
Having been such a devoted laggard on the issue, Australia now has the opportunity to show international leadership by committing to an ambitious target – at least 40% by 2020 as a start. Reports such as that by global consultants McKinsey have recently shown that just by implementing energy efficiency measures we could meet 30% cuts in the next 12 years.
Penny Wong’s declaration that the ALP are unlikely to move beyond their 60% by 2050 election promise masks where the real debate lies – taking urgent action right now by ensuring our emissions are well on the way to being halved in the next decade.
This means the federal government must start to phase-out Australia’s coal-fired power stations and not build any new ones. Yet whilst the praise and rhetoric flows on Garnaut, there are still numerous plans in the pipeline to bring new coal-fired power online – in Victoria, South Australia and in the Hunter Valley, NSW. These plans are quietly simmering hidden by a newly found enthusiasm for Australia’s renewable potential. Meanwhile the ratio of public funding given to fossil fuels compared with renewable energy and energy efficiency still sits at Howard’s legacy of 28:1.
Australia’s position on climate change has shifted into a truly positive gear but the real test is seeing the rhetoric translate into a real commitment for a clean energy future where the government stops supporting the fossil fools fuelling climate change and the energy playing field is truly levelled out and renewables finally get a fair go.