The Australian government has announced it will review its 20% renewable energy target to 2020, sparking fears that it aims to weaken or remove the target and pave the way for new coal plants.
Such concerns have been further fuelled as the review will be headed by climate change denier Dick Warburton and will focus on the cost impacts of the target, rather than benefits, significance for climate action or contribution to the country’s 5% emission reductions target.
If the target is significantly modified or removed this $18 billion in investments will be at risk, as will be a further $18 billion in investment over the next 15 years.
But has been blamed by the conservative Coalition government for increasing power prices.
Following this week’s announcement, Business Council of Australia has gone on the attack, claiming renewable energy is “distorting the market”, and that Australia’s “historical competitiveness [with coal] should not be taken for granted”.
Even the government’s own estimates show the target makes up a mere 3-5% of the average household electricity bill. Tinkering or or scrapping the target could also move investments away from renewable power and back into coal, making Australia’s already weak and inadequate 5% minimum emissions reduction target far harder to achieve.
The renewables target is on track to deliver around 76 million tonnes of emission reductions by 2020, and around 200 million tonnes to 2030.
This is roughly the same as the total annual emissions from Australia’s entire electricity sector.
But as the country continues to feel the brunt of climate change, the government continues to burying its head in the sand on the issue.
A new report from the Climate Council, released this week, warns that heatwaves across the country are not only getting hotter, longer and more frequent, but Australian cities such as Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne are already experiencing an increase in heat extremes previously predicted to arrive in 2030.
Heat is known to cause the greatest number of deaths of any natural disaster type in Australia, and as the annual number of record hot days across Australia has more than doubled since 1950, the impact of extreme heat on health, agriculture, the economy and the environment is expected to continue rising.
Yet despite such clear evidence to the contrary, the Coalition Government continues to play down climate impacts, with Tony Abbott this week dismissing the link between climate change and drought, as he did with climate change and bushfires last year.
Perhaps in the clearest sign of the government’s wilful blindness to climate change, the Australian government last week confirmed that it aims to repeal the country’s carbon tax by July, when the new Senate takes office.
The government’s intention to roll back its climate policies have long been apparent, but it will still face an uphill battle to repeal the tax as opposition politicians, campaigners and citizens across the country continue to fight to protect the measure.