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Concerns for green lobby as Australia evaluates renewable energy target

February 18th, 2014

The Australian government has announced a review of its mandatory renewable energy target, a move which is causing concern for the country’s green groups.

Green interests fear a weaker target will enable investment in new coal plants and increased pollution at the expense of investment in renewables.
The conservative Coalition government has pointed the finger at the RET for increasing power prices.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said in a statement that the review “will consider the contribution of the RET in reducing emissions, its impact on electricity prices and energy markets, as well as its costs and benefits for the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households.”

The target was introduced by the previous conservative government of John Howard to cut emissions from Australia's coal-dependant power sector.

But a weakened RET combined with the government's plan to repeal the carbon tax would shift new energy investments away from renewable sources to more coal-fired electricity, causing more pollution and making it hard to meet the climate target, according to observers.

"With no emission limit and price to make major emitters responsible for the pollution they cause, sectoral policies like the RET become much more important in meeting the government's emission reduction commitments," said John Connor, CEO at think-tank The Climate Institute told Reuters.

Green groups in Australia have also been up in arms at the appointment of Dick Warburton, a former Reserve Bank board member who has expressed doubt that carbon emissions cause climate change, as a clear sign that the government's intention is to weaken or remove the target.

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