“Australian scientists are global leaders in solar efficiency and there is no reason why we can’t be the Silicon Valley of clean technology.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian gave the first indication work was under way on near-term goals during budget estimates in Parliament last week. She said interim targets will “make sure we reach that [2050 target]”.
Questioned by upper house Greens MP David Shoebridge whether that 2050 goal remained merely “aspirational”, the Premier replied: “I’m happy for you to delete the word ‘aspirational’. That is our target and it is right in line with the Paris [climate] Agreement.”
The disclosure offered “a positive glimmer – and that’s good”, Mr Shoebridge told the Herald. “That’s the first time we’ve had a formal confirmation.”
Mr Shoebridge said Liberal-led states were beginning to realise they couldn’t wait for climate action from their federal counterparts.
Labor-led Victoria and the ACT have both legislated targets for emission reductions, with the former scheduled to set goals for 2025 and 2030 by the end of next March.
“At the end of the day, the state governments will have to deal with households having unaffordable power bills,” Mr Shoebridge said, adding other costs would include the rising tab “to fight unseasonable bushfires”.
Ms Berejiklian has changed course on climate change after the Coalition’s re-election in March. The Premier had scrapped work on how the net-zero target would be achieved when she took over from Mike Baird in 2017.
Then environment minister Mark Speakman was developing broad-based plans for emissions reductions.
These included developing an outline of “whole-of-government policy direction and principles”, he said in a letter to the government-appointed expert panel in April 2016.
A second proposal involved a five-year “strategic plan for the NSW Climate Change Fund”, Mr Speakman wrote.
Officials did not disclosure how much of Mr Kean’s work will build on Mr Speakman’s efforts, nor provide a timetable of when the targets would go to cabinet.
However, one person familiar with the government’s approach said 2020 was a realistic time for the preparation of the goals.
The rapid fall in prices for renewable energy would make the power sector the likely leader in emissions reduction, bringing jobs and investment to rural NSW, the person said.
Mr Shoebridge said any strategy the government developed would be examined carefully.
Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.