November 28, 2014

Australian States Must Show Climate Change Leadership

Much has been made of Australian Prime Minister’s Tony Abbott’s backward (read: downright insane) environmental and energy policies, without looking further into the role that the individual Australian States are playing. A new report from the Australian Climate Council attempts to rectify this, by providing the latest research on which Australian States are winning the race to renewables — “and which are not”.

Four key findings from the report highlight just how the country’s current political climate is affecting environmental and energy policies:

Australia’s States and Territories have an important leadership role to play in tackling climate change and growing Australia’s renewable energy industry.

South Australia is striding forward leading the Australian States on renewable energy.

Victoria and NSW have moved from leaders to laggards in Australia’s renewable energy race.

Australia has substantial opportunities for renewable energy. A lack of clear federal policy has led to a drop in renewable energy investment.

The report highlights the success of the United State’s state-based actions, many individual states setting independent policies and targets separate to national policies. “The US is the second in the world for installed renewable energy capacity due to the majority of US states implementing targets and incentives for renewable energy,” the report’s authors write.

Similarly, Australian states “have historically led the way on emissions and renewable energy policy, influencing national action.”

South Australia is currently leading the way on renewable energy, with $5.5 billion invested into the state’s renewable energy industry resulting in over 36% of electricity being sourced from renewable generation technologies, and 1 in 4 South Australian homes topped with solar PV panels.

However, the two most-populous states — New South Wales and Victoria — “have moved from leaders to laggards in Australia’s renewable energy race,” according to the authors of the report, who add that with 57% of the population, “Victoria and NSW only have 40% of renewable energy jobs.”

Neither state has a target to reduce emissions or increase renewable energy, and Victoria specifically has a restrictive policy environment which prevents harnessing the many and varied renewable energy sources the state has to offer. According to the report, not only has Victoria’s restrictive policy environment dried up renewable investment, but it has specifically cost the state an estimated $4 billion in lost investment and 3,000 jobs.

As a whole, Australia has massive potential to be a renewable energy generating behemoth. The sunniest country on Earth, and one of the windiest, the report’s authors claim that Australia’s renewable energy generating potential is 500 times greater than current power generation capacity.

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