Waging Climate War: Australia Battles Over an Emissions Reduction Target
By admin July 23, 2018

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The “Land Down Under” has experienced huge developments in its energy industry. But despite headlines of a Tesla solar farm and the installation of the biggest lithium-ion battery storage, Australia continues to generate 63 percent of its electricity from coal, making it one of the most coal-dependent nations in the world. (AU Department of Environment and Energy) Because coal and natural gas exports contribute significantly to trade, revenue and foreign exchange earnings, the government’s federal energy policies have consistently shifted in and out of a pro-coal stance. Today, it supports fossil fuel industries by subsidizing the use and production of these carbon-intensive energy sources. The energy transition remains a central concern in Australian politics and this year, a proposed national energy guarantee (NEG) renewed the Liberal-National coalition and Labor party’s clash over the future of energy policy and the role of fossil fuel in Australia’s economy and power mix.

The Turnbull government’s NEG proposes a target of 26 percent while the Labor party argues for an emissions reduction target of 45 percent by 2030. Despite forecasts that a lower target will have little effect on power prices, Turnbull argues that the NEG creates a possibility for export controls on gas, which will result in higher domestic supply and lower wholesale prices. But a report, commissioned by Greenpeace, shows that NEG would raise prices as coal would continue to dominate the market despite attempts to slowly displace it with gas. Sustaining coal’s role in this sector will also discourage investment in large-scale renewables. The dependence of the economy on oil, gas and coal is concerning but analysis shows that if policy does not increase renewable targets and subsidies, reliance will hurt the sector and the country’s power prices in the long-run. The construction of any new fossil fuel power plants and subsidies to carbon-heavy industry could paralyze the transition to clean energy and thwart any consensus over climate and energy policy, prolonging years of internal warring on the issue.

Due to an increasing population and considerable economic development, Australia became the 16th highest CO2 emitter in 2013. Although renewable energy is an area of growing activity that operates at various scales and covers numerous sources, the chances of leapfrogging could be offset by concessions to fossil fuel industries and investment in the “wrong type of T&D” – showing no end to the country’s proclaimed climate war.


Further Reading:

Renewables the lowest-cost future energy source: AEMO

No end to climate wars if energy pact offers concession to coal, Labor warns

Sanjeev Gupta: Coal power is no longer cheaper – and we’ll prove it

LNG import plan for South Australia targets first gas in mid-2020

National Energy Guarantee not a free kick for coal-fired electricity, Energy Australia says

 Coalition’s national energy guarantee predicted to drive up power prices

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