Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has committed a Labor government to a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.
Under the target, at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply – enough to power all 7.5 million houses in the country for a year – will have to be generated from renewable sources within 13 years.
“This brings Australia into line with most developed nations, including Europe, China and many American states,” Mr Rudd said, campaigning in Townsville with his environment spokesman Peter Garrett.
Mr Rudd said Labor would significantly expand the use of solar, wind and geothermal energy.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the generation of electricity is one of the central challenges in tackling climate change,” Mr Rudd said.
The mandatory renewable energy target (MRET) will be increased from 30,000 to 45,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year, Mr Rudd said.
Labor’s plan would also cut red tape and bring existing state-based targets into a single national scheme, and reduce emissions between 2010 and 2030 by 342 million tonnes.
Mr Rudd said renewable energy now made up 9.5 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply, down from 10.5 per cent in 1997.
“The Howard government’s consistent refusal to support the industry with policies that encourage clean energy sources has led to many Australian companies moving off-shore to find opportunities to grow and to sell their locally developed technologies,” he said.
“Mr Howard is now trying to take credit for the renewable energy capacity that will be generated from targets that the state Labor governments have set themselves.”
Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry said the Labor announcement could reduce gas emissions by 13 tonnes per year, and create 5,800 jobs.
“This announcement would put Australia on par with the Chinese renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020, but still behind California’s 33 per cent target,” Mr Henry said.
“We urge the coalition to strengthen its commitment to renewable energy.”
Clean Energy Council chief executive Dominique La Fontaine said the ALP pledge “raises the bar on climate change policy in Australia”.
“The renewable energy target is vital for the Australian economy and for Australia’s future,” she said.
“It will create long-term jobs, growth and investment, particularly in rural and regional Australia.”
Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed Labor’s announcement, saying it would be a boost to the renewable energy sector, but called for an even larger reduction.
“This target, if introduced, will lead to strong growth in Australia’s renewable energy industry and help make up for lost time,” Greenpeace head of campaigns Steve Campbell said.
“Importantly, the target should be adequate to support further manufacturing jobs in Australia and will help reverse the trend of renewable energy companies leaving Australia for greener pastures.”
By 2020 Labor’s target would deliver 15,000 gigawatt hours per year more renewable energy than the coalition government’s policy, enough energy to supply two million homes, he said.
However, Mr Campbell called on both parties to go one step further, with a 25 per cent target by 2020.
“Although the ALP’s target will increase the share of renewable power, we will need to go much further in order to avoid dangerous climate change,” he said.
“If we simply have a renewables sector growing alongside an ever expanding coal sector, we will not stop climate change.”
Support for the announcement, and the call for further action, was echoed by chief executive of the Climate Institute, John Connor.
“We think this is a huge stride towards the goal of making sure all new electricity comes from clean energy, and it also positions Australia to be a real player in the global clean energy economy,” he said.
“But we also need to see policies which will reverse Australia’s rising pollution in the next five years.”
Nature Conservation Council executive director and Walk Against Warming organiser, Cate Faehrmann, said Labor’s policy would be “meaningless” unless a target for the next three years was also set.
“Kevin Rudd will have to be re-elected four times to see out his promise of a 20 per cent renewable energy target by the year 2020,” she said.
“In the longer term a target to source 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity from renewable energy will provide a well-needed boost to the industry and create jobs and investment in regional areas, but more needs to be done in the next term of government.”
Greens leader Bob Brown also backed the ALP announcement, saying it was “almost as good” as his party’s 25 per cent target.
“Labor’s announcement is a huge improvement on the Howard government’s target,” Mr Brown said.
“It shows that the Greens’ targets are reasonable and achievable.
“This will be a big boost for home-grown energy business and enterprise in Australia and will create tens of thousands of jobs.”
30 October 2007
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