Rees gives up climate plans

Climate chaos0

Rees gives up climate plans

Marian Wilkinson and Ben Cubby
July 3, 2009

THE Rees Government has dumped key elements of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including promises to force big businesses to use less energy and to set a statewide energy efficiency target.

But the Minister for Climate Change, Carmel Tebbutt, said yesterday that the state was still “a leader in climate change action” after releasing the Government’s response to a review of its climate change measures by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

The promise to force big companies to make and implement energy-saving plans was announced by the former premier, Morris Iemma. Yesterday the Government agreed to make this voluntary, after the tribunal recommended the mandatory program be terminated.


The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, a lobby group for heavy greenhouse gas polluters, told the tribunal it opposed mandatory energy efficiency standards for businesses because they “impose an unnecessary compliance burden on industry” and were not economically efficient.

As it revealed the policy changes, the Government said it was preparing to reduce dependence on coal, announcing that new power stations planned for Lithgow and the Hunter Valley might use gas.

Coal has been the primary energy source for all state-owned power stations but the Federal Government’s proposed emissions scheme has boosted the prospects of using gas.

The Government also confirmed its approval of a giant wind farm near Goulburn, which it said could generate enough electricity for 63,000 homes.

It will maintain programs to cut energy use in homes and schools, including BASIX, or the Building Sustainability Index, which sets energy efficiency standards for new homes and which the review supported.

But the Government decided not to take the tribunal’s advice to change its Biofuel Act, which requires that ethanol be mixed with standard unleaded fuel sold across the state.

The review said there should be an independent appraisal of this practice because there was little evidence it was reducing emissions. But the Government said there was no point in reviewing it because it had been in force less than two years.

Funding for switching schools to low-energy lighting will also continue despite the review finding that was “not a cost-effective way of saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.

The changes came as the Premier, Nathan Rees, joined the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and other state leaders in Darwin in signing a national energy efficiency strategy that includes introducing new air-conditioner standards next year, phasing out electric hot water systems, and banning the sale of incandescent light globes in November.

The policy changes drew fire from the State Opposition and the Greens. “We were always sceptical about the mandatory efficiency provisions … because we knew they would be greeted with a barrage of lobbying,” the Greens MP John Kaye said.

with Brian Robins

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