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Abbott changing the rules at half time on Renewable Energy Target

By Guy Ragen - posted Thursday, 2 October 2014

This weekend, most of Sydney will be focussed on Sunday night's Grand Final. While South Sydney are the sentimental favourites, most would agree that it's only fair if the best team wins.

Imagine though if, at half time, the NRL decided to change the rules expressly to disadvantage one team – say, because Souths are leading, they can play the second half with 11 men. That would never happen of course - at least not in sport. But in politics, especially the politics of cutting carbon pollution, it seems all bets are off.

The renewable energy target is now being targeted by the Government precisely because it is working so well to reduce pollution. Clean energy makes sense to Australians because of our natural advantages. As a policy, the Renewable Energy Target aims for Australia to generate 41,000GWh of our electricity through renewable sources – sun, wind, hydro-electricity – by 2020.


It's been so successful that solar panels are now on more than one million roofs across the country, and Australia is on track to actually generate more than 27% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020 – equivalent to the entire electricity use of Queensland. This is a good thing.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, therefore, that new polling this week from Essential Research confirms Australians are overwhelmingly in favour boosting renewable energy as their preferred policy to tackle climate change – more than half the country thinks renewable energy is the way to go.

And in troubling news for the Government, the Essential research revealed that four times as many Coalition voters prefer incentives for renewable energy over their own party's centrepiece climate change policy – Direct Action.

Of course, you'd struggle to fill a cricket team with Direct Action supporters: environmentalists know it won't cut pollution, economists think it's a waste of money, and even Malcolm Turnbull has said it's a figleaf to hide the Government's real intention to do nothing.

The Renewable Energy Target is, of course, working. Why, then, is the Government so keen to change the rules? If you ask the Government they will also claim that cutting the RET will lower our electricity bills.

Well, independent modelling from Jacobs shows this is wrong. Electricity prices will head upwards by about $30 per year for the average household if the RET is abolished. It would also mean Australia would pollute an additional 150 million tonnes of carbon by 2030 and there would be $14 billion less in investment.


The only conclusion you're left with is that Tony Abbott just doesn't like renewable energy. He'd rather consign Australians to a future where dirty fossil fuels still dominate our energy markets.

Australia has a responsibility to take action on climate change. According to WWF's Living Planet report, while we've improved since the last index two years ago, Australia still generates the 13th largest ecological footprint per person.

That means we're polluting the air, cutting down forests and depleting marine life at a faster rate than all but twelve other countries, with carbon pollution the main culprit. Essentially, the world is living beyond its means and Australia is one of the worst offenders. If the rest of the world lived like we do, we'd need nearly four planet Earths just to sustain us.

It provides more proof that, rather than abolishing successful policies to cut pollution like the Renewable Energy Target, the Government should be expanding it and setting higher targets for 2030 and beyond.

When it comes to meeting our Renewable Energy Target, Australia is well ahead at half time. Why would we want to change the rules now?

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About the Author

Guy Ragen is a climate change campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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