The Labor Party has pledged to turn Australia into a “renewable energy superpower” and try again to install an emissions trading scheme, inviting a scare campaign from the Liberal government.
Labor leader Bill Shorten announced the more detailed policy on Wednesday in Queensland, an update to the plan he outlined last year. The centrepiece was a target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and an emissions trading scheme (ETS).
Mr Shorten and his ministers pointed to Australia’s falling rankings in global and local measures as proof that the country needs to take greater climate action than committed to by the Turnbull and Abbott governments.
“More talk won’t help tackle climate change, but more investment in renewable solar and wind power will,” Mr Shorten said during the press conference.
Australia dropped 10 spots in the respected Yale Environment Performance Index in recent years, from third in 2014 to 13th in 2016. And the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production rose between January and March 2016, according to the respected CEDEX quarterly report, continuing a trend since the carbon tax was repealed in 2014.
The Labor leader sought to equate Malcolm Turnbull’s climate action with that of his unpopular predecessor.
“Malcolm Turnbull and his government are still wedded to Tony Abbott’s widely-ridiculed direction action policy, which wastes taxpayers’ money paying big polluters to keep polluting,” he said.
As it did under Mr Abbott, the Liberal government seized upon the ETS announcement, quickly running scare campaign ads claiming the scheme would drive up electricity prices – a claim Labor denied.
Mr Turnbull, who supported the introduction of an emissions trading scheme in 2009 when he was opposition leader, told ABC radio the policy would “double the burden” on Australians. He was joined by Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who posted on Twitter: “Bill Shorten’s #CarbonTax will be Julia Gillard’s #CarbonTax on steroids.”
Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler told ABC radio he was confident the price of power would in fact decrease through the 2020s as the proportion of renewable energy increased.
“We want to get back to being a renewable energy superpower, which is what we were in 2013,” he said.
Labor’s announcement has made possible a closer comparison of the key components of the climate action policies of the two major parties.
The Coalition has committed to cut Australia’s emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030.
Labor has promised to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.
Key emissions action
The Coalition has set aside $2.55 billion between 2014 and 2017 for its direction action plan to pay polluters to reduce their emissions.
Labor would instead create an emissions trading scheme, which would put a cap on maximum emissions and enable big polluters to buy permits from low polluters. The exact details of the scheme are as yet unclear, except that it would be split in two, with one scheme for big polluters and another for electricity providers.
Renewable energy target
The Coalition has committed to a renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020.
On Wednesday, Labor promised 50 per cent by 2030, achieved in part by greater funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and by reversing Liberal cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).