Business, industry consider climate truce

Business, industry consider climate truce

Most business and industry leaders are welcoming a possible political truce on climate policy and the prospect of cleaning up the economy.

“Australia's net zero commitment is bipartisan, that means for the first time in a decade we have a chance at real progress on this path,” Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said after Labor released its long awaited emissions reduction plan on Friday.

“Australia is already on track to meet and beat our 2030 target, so a more ambitious short-term target makes sense.”

Modelling by RepuTex, commissioned by Labor, looked at the emissions and economic impacts of the Powering Australia Plan.

Some 604,000 jobs would be created by 2030 if the plan became government policy compared to a business-as-usual scenario, with almost three-quarters from decarbonising the coal-dependent electricity sector.

The plan was projected to achieve a 43 per cent reduction in national greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, from the benchmark levels set in 2005.

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce said Labor had set an “ambitious target”, although leader Anthony Albanese was keen to describe the policy as “modest”.

The initiatives could assist the mining industry in its efforts to decarbonise, including direct financial support for measures that improve energy efficiency within existing industries and to develop new industries in regional Australia, Mr Pearce said.

“Achieving net zero emissions in our sector will require innovation, new technologies and a deep-seated commitment to drive change,” he said.

Ms Westacott agreed with mining leaders that it would be important for Labor to work closely with business on the detail, including measures to ensure export-exposed jobs were not unfairly put at risk.

The Minerals Council said regional industries, including mining, are the “backbone” of the nation's economy.

“It is vital that any policy changes do not force emissions reduction faster than technology and commercial reality can deliver,” MCA chief executive Tania Constable said.

The RepuTex modelling showed total investment of $75.8 billion, or three per cent of GDP, by 2030, with the plan leveraging $2.15 in private investment for every taxpayer dollar spent.

Plans to update the electricity grid to accommodate more renewable energy intend to bring forward the construction of high voltage infrastructure.

The Electrical Trades Union, representing many workers rolling out new technology for an energy transition, said the plan was a “necessary intervention” to fix an increasingly fragile energy system.

The union also welcomed the plan to regularly review and update emissions reductions targets.

“We have long needed a mechanism to take the hyper partisan politics out of the climate debate,” ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks said.

“Climate change is already impacting us and the energy transition is not a thing of the future, it is happening right now.”

The oil and gas industry peak body said the Labor plan provided much needed clarity around how Labor's emissions reduction targets would be met.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association head Andrew McConville said access to international permits and credits as a way to offset emissions and the further development of a domestic offset market would be crucial.

'”Natural gas can play a key role as part of Australia's future energy mix, helping to reduce emissions at the same time as we move towards a cleaner energy future,” Mr McConville said.

He said maintaining the industry's international competitiveness and the attractiveness of Australia's policy framework for new oil and gas industry investments would be an essential part of discussions with Labor in coming weeks.

The Smart Energy Council welcomed the plan to lift the share of cheap renewable energy in the National Electricity Market to 82 per cent by 2030.

“It is the foundation stone for establishing Australia as a renewable energy superpower,” council chief executive John Grimes said.

Together with state and territory government actions and the rapid reduction in the price of solar and renewable energy, Australia can easily achieve a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030,” he said.

Increased renewable energy was projected to result in lower wholesale electricity prices, down by almost a fifth by 2025 from today's levels and by 26 per cent by 2030.

The electricity, industry and carbon farming, and transport sectors covered by the Labor plan represent 79 per cent of national emissions in 2020-21.

Climate think tank Beyond Zero Emissions said the commitment to rebuild the ageing electricity grid to better cope with new energy, investing in clean manufacturing and a stronger emissions target would help regional Australia.

Australia could grow a new green export market worth $333 billion a year by 2050 – almost triple the value of current fossil fuel exports, according to BZE research.

“To cash in on this bonanza, we have been calling for the establishment of Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts in our industrial heartlands,” BZE spokesman Tom Quinn said.

“We welcome the $20 billion commitment of investment for grid upgrades.”

The ETU said 11 coal-fired power stations closed under the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments.

“Not one of them was planned, leaving workers and their communities devastated by the fallout,” Mr Hicks said.

He called for a new Just Transition Authority to plan and support the new jobs needed for workers who would have to leave heavy emitting industries.

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