CQ pollies clash over plan for 2050 zero net emissions
POLICY paralysis over plans to reduce Australia's emissions has haunted successive Federal Governments with the issue once again coming to a boil in the coal mining heartland of Central Queensland.
In the past week Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has come under fire from members of the Coalition Government, including Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd, questioning the economic cost of the Labor Party's plan for a net zero emissions target for 2050.
Mr Albanese denied the policy could cost him Central Queensland seats at the next election, where voters turned on Labor's climate policies and Greens protests against the Adani Carmichael mine.
"In terms of going forward, what this will do is support jobs and support growth and lower emissions," Mr Albanese said.
Labor is still to settle on a 2030 emissions reduction target.
Light on detail and expected to impact across all sectors, the 2050 plan was seized on by Ms Landry as a threat to Australia's $62 billion agriculture sector and $130 billion freight industry.
Ms Landry warned that Labor was not just risking farming businesses but also farming jobs, regional communities and consumers who rely on the farming sector.
"The Opposition Leader has no idea what this target will do to dairy farmers, livestock producers and rural customers," Ms Landry said.
"This will create considerable uncertainty for farmers, businesses and investors.
"Agriculture is responsible for less than 13 per cent of emissions but Labor has also previously flagged it would impose restrictive land clearing laws on farmers nationally, like the ones we already have here in Queensland."
Ms Landry said people on the land could be forced to do the heavy lifting, bear the financial cost and suffer the most from these policies.
"At a time when the cost to run an agricultural business are high, why would Labor want to see farmers run out of business?" she asked.
"Labor has to take the agriculture out of their sights."
Her concerns about the emission reduction plan were echoed by Mr O'Dowd, who said Labor had not learnt from their climate policy "mistake".
"Their net zero emissions target by 2050 is a target without a plan to get there, and a 2050 target is no substitute for a 2030 target," he said.
"You can't set new targets without being able to look Australians in the eye and tell them how we'll get there, and how much those policies will cost.
"The pathway to meaningful reductions in global emissions is through the development and deployment of new technologies. Not taxes."
He said none of the world's largest emitters - China, the United States and India - had made any zero-carbon commitments.
Mr O'Dowd stood behind his govenment's approach towards emission reductions falling by 0.3 per cent in the September quarter - a claim disputed by Labor's energy spokesman Mark Butler, who said the reduction was due to the drought and the final investment to meet Labor's Renewable Energy Target.
Emissions are now lower than when the Coalition came into government in 2013, even when there was a carbon tax, according to Mr O'Dowd.
"We're taking real action to reduce global emissions with our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package. This will deliver the reduction needed to meet and beat our 2030 Paris target.
"The latest official projections show the National Electricity Market (NEM) is on track to be 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2022, eight years early. Which puts us on track to meet our 2030 target early, and Labor can't even set a 2030 target."
Referring to a recent report from the ANU, Mr O'Dowd said Australia was installing renewable energy capacity at 10 times the world average (watts per capita).
"We currently source around a quarter of our electricity from renewables in the National Electricity Market. This is projected to grow to more than 40% by 2025," he said.
"Unprecedented growth in generation from wind and solar reinforces the need for more investment in storage and transmission, which is why the Government has established a $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund to support private sector investment.
Labor's Queensland Senator Murray Watt said it was "strange" that the Coalition Government was complaining about Labor's zero net emission target given that they had already signed Australia up to be carbon neutral by 2050, through agreements with other countries.
"All Labor is saying is that, by 2050, we will absorb or offset as much pollution as we emit. Without this commitment, there's a risk to our economy, our jobs and our environment," Senator Watt said.
"Over 70 other countries, including the UK and Canada, have already committed to be carbon neutral by 2050. So have companies with big emissions, like BP, BHP, Santos, Origin and Qantas.
"If they can be carbon neutral by 2050, why can't Australia?"
Senator Watt said becoming carbon neutral was the best way to cut power prices, cut emissions and create new jobs, particularly in areas like Rockhampton and Gladstone.
"Renewable energy, backed up by gas and batteries, is the cheapest way of meeting our future power needs," he said.
"Central Queensland - with its incredible sunshine and manufacturing expertise - has a lot to gain. There are already solar farms and wind farms built or planned from Gladstone, to Clarke Creek, to the coalfields.
"Imagine the manufacturing jobs that could be created by increasing the supply of cheap, clean energy to Central Queensland. Why shouldn't Central Queenslanders get those jobs, rather than see them go offshore?"
He said there was no disputing that climate change was real and we were already seeing the cost of doing nothing - more natural disasters, higher insurance premiums and higher grocery prices.
"The cost of continuing to do nothing is much higher than the cost of taking action. Australian researchers have estimated that if we don't become carbon neutral by 2050, it will cost the Australian economy as much as $2.7 trillion by 2050 - 20 times more than it would cost to take action," he said.
"Even the Government's own CSIRO says a carbon neutral Australia will have 35 per cent higher wages than a future where we do nothing.
"The Government's scare campaigns are just that - scary and untrue.
"The Government says Labor's policy will kill agriculture, but the National Farmers Federation and Meat and Livestock Australia are already aiming for farming to become carbon neutral by 2030 - 20 years ahead of Labor's target."
Between 2005 and 2016, Senator Watt said the beef industry had already cut its emissions by almost 60 per cent and that number was still going down.
"What these industries want from the government is the right policy settings so they can bring down emissions, while growing their sectors and create more jobs," he said.
"The Government claims it will kill the coal industry, but Labor leader Anthony Albanese has already said we won't ban coal mines, we won't ban coal exports and that coal mining may well continue beyond 2050.
"That's no surprise, since the majority of Queensland coal that's exported is used to make steel, not power."
Over the two years, Labor planned to talk to governments, regional businesses, communities and workers and draw up a road map for reaching their target.
"This is about making Central Queensland stronger, not leaving it behind," he said.
"Many Liberals in the Government already support Labor's policies. The only reason Scott Morrison hasn't committed to it is because his government is racked by division. This division means Central Queensland's economy is left at risk - of missing out on new jobs, and of higher power and grocery prices."