The Turnbull government is set for showdown with states and territories over its signature energy policy after new details of the plan revealed any additional efforts by the states to curb carbon emissions would not count towards the national target.
A key policy design paper circulated among the states at the weekend and obtained by Fairfax Media appears to recommend a review of the emissions reductions target only every five years and provides for exemptions of trade-exposed companies that constitute as much as a fifth of demand.
The 12-page Commonwealth Design Elements paper will be examined closely this week by energy ministers as they prepare for a gathering of Council of Australian Governments in Melbourne on Friday.
The Victorian government is understood to be disappointed by the lack of modelling included in the federal paper, which was far less detailed than a separate “High Level Design Document” circulated by the Energy Security Board at the end of last week.
The two papers are expected to be all that the ministers will have to work on ahead of Friday’s meeting.
What is the point of a National Energy Guarantee that includes a national emissions intensity target that excludes state renewable schemes? None.
This is also a reversal from the NEG’s earlier concession to states that it will include their schemes giving a good sense of policy-on-the-run that defines this vapid thing. The problem of course is that if the state schemes are included then they will have to be rolled back under a weak intensity target but will render coal obsolete under a stronger one. In short, the NEG is an attempt to either hide a carbon price or not have one at all. And we don’t even know which it is!
Frydenberg is asking states to sign up to a virtual carbon blank cheque described in thin air with no bank account nor even bank.
Labor knows it but might just play along:
Labor would retain the Turnbull government’s cornerstone energy policy but legally enforce deeper emissions cuts on the electricity industry, suggesting elusive bipartisan action on the climate crisis is within reach.
The pledge is a departure from the emissions intensity scheme Labor took to the 2016 election, and comes days out from pivotal negotiations between the Commonwealth and the states over the design of the Coalition’s policy, known as the National Energy Guarantee.
Opposition climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler on Monday said if the NEG was implemented, a future Labor government would legislate to lift the policy’s emissions reduction target for the electricity sector to match Labor’s stronger national target.
In other words, all the NEG achieves is pushing the carbon price war under a mountain of red tape where presumably everybody hopes Tony Abbott can’t see it.
Meanwhile, the pressure to do more will keep mounting, via The Guardian:
A key environment group is urging the Labor states not to rubber stamp the Turnbull government’s national energy guarantee at Friday’s meeting of energy ministers.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has warned that a low emissions reduction target for electricity would put at risk the states’ own energy plans and any chance of effective climate change action.
It says the the national emissions reduction target, confirmed in a new commonwealth paper, of a 26% cut on 2005 levels by 2030 is “woefully inadequate”.
“Many state governments have made strong commitments to make deeper pollution cuts and embrace clean energy,” said Suzanne Harter, from the ACF’s climate change and clean energy campaign. “They should not wave through a Neg that jeopardises fulfilling these commitments to the communities they represent.
“At Friday’s meeting state governments must insist on a national climate change plan for electricity that, unlike the Neg, will facilitate a rapid rollout of clean energy that makes deep cuts to planet warming pollution.”
The NEG is a remarkable waste of everyone’s time that resolves nothing for the carbon debate.