Page 575 - Week 02 - Thursday, 16 February 2017

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politician try to pretend that renewable energy is bad for consumers and electricity prices. The reverse is in fact true, and it is worth telling them about the situation in the ACT and what can be done.

I want to talk about coal for a moment because it is certainly in the political zeitgeist, prompted especially by the recent pronouncements by the Prime Minister that we would need to have more coal in the future. Of course, we had the lump of lacquered coal being passed around in parliament. This act was particularly odious, knowing that burning coal and fossil fuels is the primary contributor to climate change. At the same moment the east coast of Australia was suffering through a record breaking heatwave. The heat caused people to become sick and infrastructure to fail, including, ironically, coal-fired power plants whose cooling systems can fail in extreme heat.

Clive Hamilton commented on the offensive nature of this “coal lump lovefest” by saying:

… for some people, there are desires more urgent and goals more grand than that of protecting others, and their own families, from plunging into dark and dangerous times. The glory and self-satisfaction of defeating one’s enemy, for instance.

How sad it is when these are the values of some of our elected representatives. Doubling down on his politics, the Prime Minister has even said that Australia should be building new coal-fired power plants, potentially subsidised by the Australian taxpayer. Not only is this a disastrous outcome for climate change, because the science clearly tells us that burning new coal reserves is incompatible with our goal of preventing catastrophic global warming, but it is economically irresponsible. Research from the University of Melbourne shows that new coal plants aimed at reducing emissions would cost $62 billion, while the cost of using renewables would be about half the cost. To pour taxpayer money into this coal infrastructure, contrary to the clear evidence that it is both inordinately expensive and toxic to our efforts to combat climate change, really is a disgrace.

To conclude, I will briefly reiterate the action occurring in the ACT which I recently outlined to the Assembly in a ministerial statement. We in the ACT are making good efforts on climate change mitigation. We are looking at what the science says and we are responding with appropriate emissions reduction targets. We have a target of 100 per cent renewable electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2020. We have our target of a 40 per cent reduction on 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. And we are going to meet our 100 per cent target; our contracts are locked in. We have the Hornsdale Wind Farm coming online today, and we will be reaching the point where one-third of our electricity is already coming from renewable sources. We are leading the way nationally, and this is what we need to do when the federal government is not providing the clear policy direction that the country needs.

Although I say that we are leading the way in the ACT, we actually have a serious amount of work to do. We have set off in the right direction, but we still have most of the race to run. The next step is to develop and implement a plan to reach zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest. Again this is what the science tells us we need to do.

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