The Renewable Energy Target

Wind farm (Photo by Nachoman-au)

Wind farm (Photo by Nachoman-au)

Australia is the only country in world to have removed a price on carbon and we are now going to slash support for renewable energy.

Dick Warburton, has just completed a review for the Government of the renewable energy target that recommends an immediate closure, or a massive scaling back, of the (up to now) bipartisan 41,000GWh target.

It was incredible that the Government thought it appropriate to appoint Warburton as the chairperson for such an important review when he is sceptical that climate change is being caused by humans. In an interview in February this year, Warburton said:

I am not a denier, nor a sceptic actually, of climate change per se. What I am sceptical is the claims that man-made carbon dioxide is the major cause of global warming. I’m not a denier of that, but I am sceptical of that claim.

In an interview with James Glenday on ABC AM yesterday morning, Warburton was asked “Did your own scepticism about man-made climate change influence this report or its findings at all?” He replied:

Look, my position there James is well known. People know that and you’ve just explained it. But it had no bearing on this report at all. It has no bearing on the terms of reference, it’s not in the terms of reference at all, and there’s no mention of that or effect of that in the report itself. It had no bearing on the report.

Who is he kidding? Even though the Government excluded climate change from the terms of reference (despite climate change being the reason the target was established in the first place) of course climate change has a major bearing on the report. We need a renewable energy target because we need to transition from fossil fuels. We need to encourage research and development in clean energy so that we reduce the human impact on climate change, and we need to support an essential emerging industry. Unfortunately Warburton, despite the scientific consensus, is sceptical about the human impact on climate change, and thus doesn’t see the need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

When Warburton was asked if he thought there was “any point at all in having a renewable energy target?” his response suggests that he doesn’t grasp the importance of clean energy. Warburton argues:

We don’t believe that there needs to be a large scale of renewables being made into the market at a time when there is so much supply.

Energy consumption has been decreasing in Australia since 2010, for a wide range of reasons and people have been making conscious decisions to help reduce energy use. If there is so much supply at the moment, it’s because we have been successful in conserving energy and we should use it as an opportunity to continue reducing our reliance on damaging fossil fuels.

The Renewable Energy Target has been successful in reducing carbon emission and promoting clean energy but the review is threatening to slow down the progress we are making. The recommendations in the review essentially help to prolong the life of the fossil fuel industry at the expense of the renewable energy industry. Which industry would you prefer to support?

As Alan Pears from RMIT University suggests:

The reality is that our electricity future will be very different from our past. Many disruptive technologies and business models are emerging that are undermining the economics of our existing energy system. We also face accelerating climate change. So we really face a question of whether we continue to prop up the existing industry or actively support the emerging energy solutions of energy efficiency, storage, renewable energy and smart management of energy, even if it involves some short-term costs. Would you prefer to go back to landline phones instead of your mobile?

The Prime Minister knew what he was doing when he put Warburton in charge of the review and he has got the result he wanted. We can only hope that public support for clean energy will prevent the recommendations being accepted.

If you want to email your local federal member to express your support for the target, Solar Citizen helps you to do it here.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. A statistically representative climate change debate
  2. What is the Transition Streets Challenge?
  3. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  4. Our love affair with the car.
  5. Consumption and the Transition movement

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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