Andrea Bunting

Finally, the federal government has a policy for the electricity sector: the National Energy Guarantee. (NEG. Did it think this one through?)

It is, effectively, an emissions trading scheme applied to electricity. It is similar to other schemes — the Clean Energy Target (CET) and the Emissions Intensity Scheme (EIS) — supported by Labor.

In Australia, the National Electricity Market is rapidly becoming dysfunctional, with power shortages, blackouts and soaring prices making headlines.

Private companies are refusing to invest in new fossil fuel generators to replace those that have closed. This “investment strike” is due partly to uncertainty about carbon pricing and partly to increasingly volatile spot prices received by generators.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel presented the Blueprint for the future: Independent review into the future security of the national electricity market, known as the Finkel Review, to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Leaders’ meeting on June 9.

The mainstream media has focused on one recommendation — a Clean Energy Target — and the Coalition’s reaction.

Readers may have noticed that Australia is in the midst of an energy war. On one side are right-wing commentators attacking renewable energy at every turn. On the other side are renewables advocates, quick to retaliate, sometimes without considering the whole story.

The Donald Trump regime in the United States is stepping up its attacks on clean energy, and emboldening the Australian federal government to do likewise.

Trump has recently appointed Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. In his first interview, Pruitt announced that he would eliminate the Clean Power Plan, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2015. The Clean Power Plan was aimed at reducing the US’s carbon emissions from power generation by 32% by 2030.

Cuts to the age pension, legislated in 2015, have begun. The main change is to the assets test taper rate.

For every additional $1000 in assets, pensioners now lose $78 a year (raised from $39). Previously, a homeowner couple with $1,178,000 in assets would have qualified for a part pension. This upper limit has dropped to $816,000. (These figures do not include the family home.)

Green Left Weekly hosted a forum on February 17: “After the Paris Climate Talks: Which way forward for the climate movement?”, with John Englart (citizen journalist, observer at Paris Talks); David Spratt (climate policy analyst, People's Climate March organiser) and me (Socialist Alliance and grassroots climate activist).

Paris Agreement

John Englart summarised the main parts of the Paris Agreement:
• A warming target of well below 2°C, with efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C;

The latest advertisement from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) depicts the military “rescuing” Australians from overseas so they can eat lamb on Australia Day.

On November 22, the Australian Greens launched their updated renewable energy plan Renew Australia.

The plan improves on their 2013 Clean Energy Roadmap, which was light on detail, merely calling for the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to be raised to 90% by 2030, more funding for the commercialisation of renewable energy technology and improved coordination and planning of the electricity grid.

Should the climate movement call for the restoration of a safe climate, rather than just zero emissions?

According to a recent paper, Striking Targets, by climate writer Philip Sutton, greenhouse gas concentrations are already too high to avoid dangerous global warming, so the zero emissions goal is inadequate.

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