Australia

Australia

Industry left unimpressed with Australia's new climate package

Prime minister Scott Morrison unveiled a new plan pledging A$3.5 billion (US$2.5 billion) to reach emission reduction targets -- including a A$2 billion extension to a Tony Abbott-era policy -- to "deliver practical climate solutions".

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison (pic: Scott Morrison / Facebook)
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison (pic: Scott Morrison / Facebook)

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Morrison’s Climate Solutions Fund will deliver the A$2 billion over ten years to support businesses and communities to reduce emissions through ecological or efficiency measures.

It is an extension of the Emissions Reduction Fund policy enacted in 2014 by former prime minister Tony Abbott. Morrison claimed this fund had "been a great success".

The plan also includes a National Electric Vehicle strategy.

The policy was announced ahead of elections due to take place in May.

In November, Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition Labor Party, unveiled a A$15 billion programme to support the green transition including A$5 billion to improve transmission infrastructure.

Renewables bodies in the country said Morrison’s policy was not addressing the right issues, and criticised the continued lack of a coherent federal energy policy.

"Any policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which ignores the need to transition our emissions-intensive energy sector – the largest source of emissions in the Australian economy – to clean energy, is not taking the matter seriously," the Clean Energy Council’s chief executive, Kane Thornton, said.

"It also misses a golden opportunity to incentivise further private investment, further lower energy prices and create jobs.

"This new fund will not apply to the energy generation sector. This means that the momentum created by A$20 billion of private investment in large-scale renewable energy being built behind the Renewable Energy Target is now at risk.

"All the incredible expertise and capacity the industry has built could be lost without policy certainty beyond 2020," Thornton added.

The CEC laid out its policy recommendations to the next federal government in a directive issued in mid-February. 

The Australian Wind Alliance pressure group claimed the policy was "political cowardice, fiscal recklessness and environmental vandalism.

"It is not a serious policy. It is a policy to keep [Liberal Party member] Craig Kelly, Tony Abbott and the coal lobby happy," it said in a social media post.

Meanwhile, the Smart Energy Council – an industry body supporting solar and storage – said: "We saw Scott Morrison deliver the speech, but clearly heard Tony Abbott’s words.

"Scott Morrison has topped up Tony Abbott’s Emissions Reduction Fund, maintained Tony Abbott’s emissions reduction target and continued Tony Abbott’s contempt for action on climate change.

"We are facing a climate change emergency and we need to do whatever we can to increase our solar and renewable energy generation.

"Instead of fast tracking the connection of renewables, Scott Morrison’s answer is to lock in failed policy, and say we will meet our targets ‘in a canter’".

Interconnection

As part of the announcement, Morrison also awarded A$56 million in funding for a second interconnector between the Australian mainland and Tasmania.

The 1.2GW Marinus Link would help Tasmania, become "Australia’s battery", the prime minister said.

Thornton welcomed this investment to help unlock Tasmania’s renewable energy potential.

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