In case it has slipped anyone's minds, let me recap why the environment movement campaigns on climate change. We have a few years left to get emissions falling dramatically and in Australia, we need to be looking at at least 40% reductions below 1990 levels by the year 2020. This is if we want to prevent climate change getting completely out of hand. OK, I was just checking.
Nearly halving our emissions by 2020 is a huge challenge but one we have to achieve. It will involve making cuts in every sector, particularly stationary energy, which is the source of 50% of our emissions. By conceding that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology wouldn't be commercially available until 2020 at the earliest, the National Generators Forum has essentially taken CCS off the table as a viable option.
Try to tell that to the Australian Coal Association though who, with the support of the CFMEU, WWF Australia and the Climate Institute, have attempted to find themselves a lifeline as the world wakes up to the need to phase out coal. Their calls for CCS to be up and running by 2020 are dangerously distracting us from rolling out solutions that exist here and now and actually doing something practical about cutting emissions.
Up to the year 2020, we will either be reducing emissions from coal by cutting electricity demand and replacing coal-fired power with renewable energy or not at all. We can't sit around and wait for the coal-industry's fanciful, alchemaic experiments to save the day. If we successfully make that transition, it points us in the direction of a massive renewable energy boom that can continue to take the place of coal, providing more investment and employment opportunities as welcome by-products of saving the climate.
The arguments against CCS are similar to the arguments against the nuclear power, in that it's too expensive, too risky, safe storage is not certain and can't do the job to cut emissions in the timeframe we need. There are also questions over liability in the case of failure of CCS to work which haven't been resolved.
Any money, public or private, that goes into CCS is wasted and a missed opportunity to roll out the renewable energy solutions that are ready to go right now. If the coal industry want to put their own money into experimenting with CCS then, well, I suppose that's their bag. But to use public money - taxpayers money - to fund this false solution is inexcusable. Already fossil fuels receive 28 times more public funding than renewable energy. Australians' taxes are already being used to drive climate change, and now they're going to be used to buildthe sense of false hopethat the coal industry can get it's act together in time? Unbelievable.
I was particularly amused by the suggestion from WWF CEO Greg Bourne that "We have roundabout a 90 per cent chance of beating the challenge of climatechange. If CCS dropped out it drops down to about a 30 per cent chance,". After posting this blog I'm going to Ebay to see if I can buy the beer coaster those figures were written on the back of.
Click here to check out our story from last week where we delivered the message "No Future in Coal" to some of Australia's biggest polluting power stations.
Click here to read why CCS is a False Hope.