Shorten shows the way on renewables

The Age Editorial: 23 July 2015: Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten’s proposal to push for half of all Australia’s large-scale energy production to be derived from renewable sources by 2030 is certainly ambitious and possibly unachievable given the prevailing political mood, but it should be vigorously applauded and pursued with urgency.It is precisely the kind of goal that our leaders should be setting when considering how to shape this nation’s economic and environmental future. The two cannot be decoupled: how Australia deals today with environmental issues will determine the economic prospects of future generations. Reducing carbon emissions around the world will go some way to holding temperature rises in check, which is essential for food production and maintaining amenable living conditions.

At the same time, Australia’s coal resources, while bountiful now and providing a vital source of power and substantial export revenue, cannot remain this country’s default option. An epic shift to sustainable energy sources – wind, solar, bio-energy and so on – must begin now. We urge all political parties to commit to accelerating the transition. This project must not fall solely to the left or centrists.

Australia currently derives about 13.5 per cent of its energy production from renewable sources, and achievement of the recently revised renewable energy target would see that figure increase to 23.5 per cent in five years. But the move to an increased reliance on wind, solar and other sustainable energy sources must pick up pace, and the development of alternative forms of renewable energy must be embraced and pursued with vigour.

The Coalition’s initial response to Mr Shorten’s proposal – that a broadscale usage of renewable energy would push up electricity prices – is facile because it is too narrowly focused on immediate pricing outcomes as opposed to long-term benefits. Still, that is what we have come to expect from the Abbott government, which has adopted arguably the most contrarian view in the world when it comes to climate change. Don’t expect this government to promote a sophisticated approach or one that pays any regard to the science on climate change.

While electricity costs may well increase with a greater reliance on renewable energy sources, the do-nothing option is not viable.

For all that, Labor’s ambition in setting environmental improvement goals is vacuous unless it comes with details, with plans for implementation and enforcement that are genuinely achievable. That is the challenge Labor must meet if Mr Shorten’s target is to be accepted, firstly, by delegates at the ALP national conference this weekend and, ultimately, by voters.

The Age Editorial: 23 July 2015

Key Words: OzPolitics

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