Australia’s existing coal mines will be enough to supply electricity to the nation until 2040, with the Greens pushing for a ban on new coal projects in return for backing Labor’s signature climate policy.
Labor and the Greens are still some way from reaching an agreement on the climate bill and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has declared that the Greens’ demand to ban new coal and gas projects would be “irresponsible”.
Bowen has been locked in negotiations with the Greens and other key senate crossbenchers in recent days. The government is eager to pass its changes to the safeguard mechanism to cut emissions in the next sitting fortnight of parliament.
With parliament returning on Monday the government needs the support of the Greens and two additional senators to pass the bill through the upper house.
A research brief by the Parliamentary Library, commissioned by the Greens, reveals that the nation’s existing coal mines are adequate to meet the projected demand for coal-fired electricity generation through to 2040.
The document concludes that “it is unlikely that new coal mines are needed to … maintain projected electricity generation needs”.
[It would be] irresponsible to start placing bans on traditional energy supply like coal and gas.
Energy Minister Chris Bowen
“If additional domestic supply was required, there is ample available product in the export-bound production to supplement any shortfall,” the brief says.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said there was enough coal and gas already in the system for the Australian economy to make the transition to renewables.
“We have offered to support Labor’s Safeguard Mechanism, despite all its faults, if Labor stops opening up new coal and gas,” he said.
“Coal and gas are the biggest causes of the climate crisis, and we simply do not need any more”.
Bowen said it would be “irresponsible to start placing bans on traditional energy supply like coal and gas”.
He said Australia’s “massive transformation” to more renewable energy needed to be done in an orderly and methodical way.
“We need to get to 82 per cent renewable energy by 2030, which is now only 82 months away. It’s a big task,” he said.
“But it will mean that we still require traditional energy to power the remaining 18 per cent, and to help us do that we need to ensure we have the supply required.
“Gas will have a role to play in peaking and firming for many years to come.”
Under Labor’s changes to safeguard mechanism which was created by the former Abbott government, Australia’s 215 biggest industrial polluters would be forced to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 under binding pollution caps.
Senator David Pocock, whose vote may be crucial, said the changes to the safeguard mechanism “have to achieve a genuine and significant reduction in emissions”.
“I appreciate the genuine and considered way Minister Bowen has been engaging with the recommendations I outlined in my contribution to the Senate Committee report,” he said.
“I look forward to continuing those discussions over the coming days.”
Senator Tammy Tyrrell, who along with her colleague Jacqui Lambie is also a key vote, said industries in her state of Tasmania, such as cement, “can’t go net zero overnight”.
“As long as there’s sensible recognition from the Government on that – that not every industry’s pathway to net zero is the same, and can’t be forced onto the same trajectory – I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” she said.
“The scheme can be refined and improved over time but only if it’s given time.”
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