Climate change and renewables - it's getting hot in here!

By Calum Hendry. 21st June 2016.

Our goal is to provide an accurate summary of where the parties stand, but would advise that you also read more broadly and verify other sources of information before deciding who to vote for.

Climate change and renewable energy policy is an even bigger issue than most people realise because it as much about the economy as it is the environment.

If we’re going to tackle climate change, we also need to transform our energy sector and the jobs people have now and into the future.

In 2015, the World Energy Council ranked Australia 110th in the world for environmental sustainability.

According to the Yale Environmental Performance Index, Australia came in at 82nd in the world on its climate and energy record. Saudi Arabia is the only wealthy nation ranked lower than Australia.

Clearly there is much work to be done (have you seen the Great Barrier Reef lately?). But gains have been restricted by the regressive and often vicious debates that have dominated the politics of climate change. 

Remember how everyone accused Julia Gillard of a being a witch because she wanted to save humanity from imminent environmental oblivion? That’s how #auspol conducts its reasonable political debates. 

Contemporary political wisdom suggests the best way of combating climate change is setting and achieving a renewable energy target.

To this end, each party has committed to transitioning a percentage of Australia's energy production to renewable sources by a certain date.

Here’s a quick look-see at what each proposes.

The coalition

Protecting our environment

The Coalition is often perceived to be the least committed to tackling climate change of the major parties. This is because the Liberals and Nationals have historically been the party of climate skepticism, with some high profile members continuing to question the science of climate change to this day.

Nonetheless, times are a changing and the Coalition has pledged to transition to 23% renewable energy by 2030.

Below are a summary of the policies they are taking to the 2016 election:

  • Emissions Reduction Fund – investing $2.25 billion into the fund to incentivise businesses to reduce their emissions.
  • Clean Energy Innovation Fund – investing $1 billion into the fund to assist in the transition to clean energy by supporting large-scale renewable energy projects.
  • National Energy Productivity Plan - a framework aimed at ensuring that the energy sector continues to create investments and jobs, reduces emissions and to help consumers manage and reduce their energy costs.

labor party

Climate Change Action Plan

Labor is perceived to be stronger than the Coalition but weaker than the Greens on climate change. Where the Coalition’s renewable energy target is set at 23% by 2030, Labor is aiming for 50% by 2030. introduced one of the most effective carbon pricing mechanisms in the world and has a history of enacting progressive environmental policies. Nonetheless, Labor has emphasised the importance of ensuring jobs and regional communities are not disproportionately burdened in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

The Labor party's energy plan involves:

  • Renewable Energy Economy - expand the investment mandate of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), provide funding to ARENA to support solar projects and establish a community power network and regional hubs.
  • Cut pollution – Implement a domestic emissions trading scheme, work with stakeholders to examine the use of carbon capture on land and environmental protection laws.
  • Increase energy efficiency - Double Australia's energy productivity by 2030. Introduce new motor vehicle emissions standards. New assessment criteria for smart infrastructure
  •  Establish a Strategic Industries Taskforce - provide engagement and review of emissions intensive industries.

the greens

Renew Australia

The Greens' renewable energy and climate plan revolves around achieving a 90% renewable energy target by 2030.  The party has had a long history of campaigning on this issue and was a party founded upon environmental principles.  Their policies on this issue revolve around creating a new energy system for Australia and completely phasing out our reliance on fossil fuels.

The Greens’ policy has quite a few different aspects to it. The main points are:

  • Renew Australia - a new $500 million government authority to plan and drive the transition to a new clean energy system.
  • Clean Energy Transition Fund - to assist coal workers and communities shift to new industries during the transition process.
  • The transition to new energy production system - remove government subsidies for fossil fuel industries. Create state-based pollution intensity standards that become tighter over time. Create a market-based emissions trading scheme. Provide training and re-skilling programs, investment support for new businesses and enterprises, and funding to assist new industries to move to affected areas.
  • Invest in new technology - aim to double energy efficiency by 2030 through renewable technology investment. Shift investments from an old-style energy network to build a smart, shared grid powered by renewable energy and battery storage with the aim of reducing electricity prices.
  • Public finance for public infrastructure – tender for renewable energy projects that will remain under public ownership and provide a return for taxpayers.
  • Solar for homes and businesses - incentivise more people to put solar panels on their homes or businesses.

the renewable energy party

The Renewable Energy Party Policy Statement

This party has a Renewable Energy Target of 100% by 2030. The Party currently has no members of parliament but is running five candidates.

  • Transition planning - invest in a lean energy workforce. Ensure a just transition for coal communities with programs for workforce re-training and orderly closure of coal-fired power stations.
  • Electricity market reforms – expand the current Renewable Energy Target to 100% by 2030. Reform national electricity market rules. 
  • Energy policy – remove fossil fuel subsidies and redirect money towards renewables. Double energy productivity by 2030. Establish a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Support renewable energy grassroots initiatives by local communities.
  • Research, Development and Commercialisation – increase ARENA’s budget. Restore CSIRO’s ability to do climate research.

Thats a lot of buzzwords - how do I figure out who is actually serious about climate change?

If you care about the environment and are still not sure about who to vote for, we recommend checking out the scorecards the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) recently issued the Coalition, Labor and the Greens for their environmental platforms.  

They scored the Coalition 11%, Labor 53% and the Greens 77%.

These figures are pretty good how-to-vote guides if you care strongly about the environment.

However, they do not take into account other important considerations, such as the importance of a stable transition to renewable energy and employment in towns that have traditionally relied on strong fossil fuel industries.

We therefore encourage you to consider each parties position closely, figure out which one best represents your views and reward them with your vote.