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The Australian Labor Party has released its plan to reduce emissions and boost renewable energy initiatives.

The Powering Australia plan is expected to spur $76 billion of investment and create 604,000 jobs, with five out of six new jobs to be created in the regions.

It aims to cut power bills for families and businesses by $275 a year for homes by 2025.

The plan will reduce Australia’s emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 – which will become Australia’s target under the Paris Agreement, keeping the country on track for net zero by 2050.

The Powering Australia plan will:

  • Upgrade the electricity grid to fix energy transmission and drive down power prices
  • Make electric vehicles cheaper with an electric car discount and Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy
  • Adopt the Business Council of Australia’s recommendation for facilities already covered by the government’s safeguard mechanism that emissions be reduced gradually and predictably over time, to support international competitiveness and economic growth – consistent with industry’s own commitment to net zero by 2050
  • Protect the competitiveness of emissions-intensive trade exposed industries by ensuring they will not face a greater constraint than their competitors
  • Allocate up to $3 billion from Labor’s National Reconstruction Fund to invest in green metals (steel, alumina and aluminium); clean energy component manufacturing; hydrogen electrolysers and fuel switching; agricultural methane reduction and waste reduction
  • Provide direct financial support for measures that improve energy efficiency within existing industries and develop new industries in Regional Australia through a new Powering the Regions Fund
  • Roll out 85 solar banks around Australia to ensure more households can benefit from rooftop solar
  • Install 400 community batteries across the country
  • Reduce the Australian Public Service’s emissions to net zero by 2030
  • Invest in 10,000 New Energy Apprentices and a New Energy Skills Program
  • Establish a real-world vehicle fuel testing program to inform consumer choice
  • Work with large businesses to provide greater transparency on their climate-related risks and opportunities
  • Re-establish leadership by restoring the role of the Climate Change Authority, while keeping decision-making and accountability with the government and introducing new annual parliamentary reporting

The plan would see Australia re-join key trading partners in their ambition to 2030, like Canada (with its similar economic base) at 40-45 per cent, South Korea at 40 per cent and Japan at 46 per cent.

Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, said, “Less than a month after the biggest climate conference in world history, Australia has been asked to try again when it comes to climate policy, after being ranked last in the world.”

Industry responds: a step in the right direction

Clean Energy Council Director of Energy Generation and Storage, Dr Nicholas Aberle, said that the plan could unlock economic and environmental benefits in the future.

“The electricity sector is the low-hanging fruit of the decarbonisation journey, and this announcement would put Australia on a stronger path to net zero,” Dr Aberle said.

“The policies recognise that renewable energy and a thriving economy go hand-in-hand, with the majority of projects located in rural and regional areas, delivering career pathways that provide access to clean, low-cost energy, which the future workforce can truly aspire to.

“Critically, the ALP’s plan provides long-term legislative certainty for 2030 and 2050. As Australian states and territories can attest, this gives the green light to renewable energy investors.

“ClimateWorks data shows that we’re on track for emissions cuts in the range of 37– 42 per cent, based on state and territory government commitments, so we hope that 43 per cent is a floor on ambition and not a ceiling.”

World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia) CEO, Dermot O’Gorman, said that Australia has the potential to become a renewable export superpower.

“Australia has the right ingredients to become a world leader in renewables and strong targets and policy certainty are needed to help make that happen,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“However, although the policy is heading in the right direction, it does not go far enough or fast enough.”

RE-Alliance, a community-based organisation that advocates for stronger regional outcomes in the energy transformation, welcomed the announcement of a 43 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030.

RE-Alliance National Director, Andrew Bray, said the plan “doesn’t quite line up with what is needed to meet international obligations and reduce the harm climate change will bring to regional Australia if we don’t act”.

“Regional communities stand to benefit most from investment in a strong renewable energy industry, including from new jobs and lease payments to farmers hosting wind and solar farms,” Mr Bray said.

“Labor has laid down some solid groundwork in this policy. What we need now is to see more ambition, faster emissions reduction, and greater investment in a renewable jobs boom that will see regional Australia prosper.”

The Smart Energy Council praised the plan, which would see the share of low-cost renewables in the National Electricity Market lifted to 82 per cent by 2030.

Electrical Trades Union (ETU) National Secretary, Allen Hicks, said the plan was a necessary intervention in an increasingly fragile energy system.

“Privatisation and marketisation of Australia’s energy system has left our energy network vulnerable to the impacts of the energy transition and unprepared for the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events caused by climate change,” Mr Hicks said.

“The suite of policies put forward by Labor to address these shortfalls will strengthen the energy network while creating thousands of jobs.”

The ETU also welcomed the plan to regularly review and update emissions reduction targets.

“We have long-needed a mechanism to take hyper-partisan politics out of the climate debate,” Mr Hicks said.

“The policies are a welcome step in the right direction but they must ensure they deliver secure union jobs and protect workers and communities impacted by the transition.

“We also recognise some industries are changing and if elected, the government must urgently create a Just Transition Authority to deliver the proper planning and support needed to secure dignity and new jobs with equivalent wages and conditions for workers in emissions intensive sectors.”

Industry calls for more details

APPEA Chief Executive, Andrew McConville, said they would like clarification on parts of the plan, including on proposed changes to the safeguard mechanism, the definition of a trade-exposed industry, access to international permits as a way to offset emissions and the development of a domestic offset market.

“We need to work together and that means an approach to climate change that integrates a range of other policies including energy, trade, economic growth and environmental and social responsibility,” Mr McConville said.

“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.”

The Australian Hydrogen Council (AHC) CEO, Dr Fiona Simon, said that while hydrogen was not the focus of the plan, the policy does outline policy markers related to steel manufacturing, electrolysers and fuel switching.

“We would welcome more detail on how Labor would protect emissions intensive trade exposed industries as the economy transitions,” Dr Simon said.

“Our concern is that no proposal yet announced by any party addresses the current patchwork of policy measures between the two largest tiers of government.”

Labor’s Powering Australia plan and modelling is available here.

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