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Bowen’s ‘simple yet powerful’ pledge on rapid climate action

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

The federal government will tackle climate change hard during the first week of the new parliament.

The proposed bill will be “simple yet powerful,” Climate Change and Energy Secretary Chris Bowen told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

It will legislate the government’s target of a 43 percent reduction in emissions and require the climate change minister to report annually to parliament on Australia’s progress.

He said that upgrades to Australia’s electricity grid and a national electric vehicle policy are also high on the agenda.

Bowen remains open to working with independents who have pushed a larger emissions reduction target into the election.

“If there’s a good idea that improves, not undermines, the bill, I’d love to hear it and work with it,” he said.

He said the 43 percent target would be a floor, not a ceiling.

Bowen's 'simple yet powerful' pledge on rapid climate action

“We’re not going to see it as a ceiling. It’s the modeled impact of our policies,” he said.

But he also ruled out a ban on future gas and coal projects.

Within weeks of being sworn in as minister, Mr. Bowen faced a perfect storm of coal-fired power plant shutdowns, a cold spell, and rising gas prices.

The federal energy regulator suspended the energy market for a week over complaints that the market-based system had been breached.

International pressure, such as the war in Ukraine, sent shockwaves to global energy markets, but Labor blamed the former coalition government for Australia’s energy shortage.

The new government said a decade of underinvestment in renewable energy has led to the recent grid outages. Bowen described the energy crisis as “Taylor-made,” a reference to his predecessor, Angus Taylor.

“They also knew that electricity prices were on their way, but they decided to leave it to the new government to announce the increase in the standard supply in the market,” he said.

“Not only were they incompetent, but they were also dishonest about it. And all this has come at a high cost to the country, a dip in renewable energy investment, not enough investment in storage, not enough investment in transmission.”

But as the short-term crisis has eased, Bowen faces the challenge of selling the Labor government’s long-term energy plan while keeping electricity and prices low.

Bowen said that the controversial proposal for a capacity mechanism, used as a safety net during Australia’s transition to renewables, would not affect the emissions reduction target.

Under the mechanism to be implemented in 2025, the government would pay electricity suppliers to have standby power available to meet demand.

The body set up to design the mechanism says it should include all current power generators, including coal and gas.

Industry groups have criticized the proposal for failing to address existing issues in the energy market and potentially delaying the transition to a lower emissions system.

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