Meat & Livestock News

Coalition Pledges to Abandon 2030 Emissions Target: Implications for Agriculture

TL;DR: The Federal opposition pledges to abandon the 2030 emissions target, favouring nuclear energy to achieve net zero by 2050. This shift aims to ease pressure on renewable energy rollout. The current government’s target has spurred renewable investment and increased carbon market reliance. The opposition’s plan, while potentially benefiting agriculture by reducing land competition, faces challenges overturning the nuclear ban. Carbon projects will likely continue, but the role of carbon capture and storage remains controversial. The agricultural impact hinges on policy execution.

Opposition’s New Stance

The Federal Opposition has set the tone for its next election campaign by pledging to reverse the current Government’s 2030 emissions target. Labour’s goal to reduce emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030 has significantly impacted agriculture since its election in 2022, spurring investment in renewable energy and increasing reliance on the carbon market.

The goal has received mixed reactions from the agriculture sector. Some see it as an opportunity, while others view it as a burden. Opinions vary widely.

Opposition’s Plan

Now, the opposition, led by Peter Dutton, challenges Labor’s approach. Dutton pledges to ditch the 2030 target and instead rely on nuclear energy to reach net zero by 2050. The transition to nuclear is expected to take until 2040-2050 to be fully online.

Impact on Agriculture

If the opposition is elected, what will these changes mean for agriculture?

Renewable Energy

The primary objective for abandoning the 2030 target seems to be easing the pressure on the rollout of renewable energy. Large-scale wind and solar projects are central to Labor’s plan, which aims for 82% of the nation’s electricity grid to come from renewable energy by 2030. The Government has offered financial incentives, designated areas for renewable energy development, and built transmission lines to connect these projects to the national grid.

The renewables industry believes it can meet the target, citing the country’s past success in scaling up other energy sources like gas. However, the Coalition argues the goal is unrealistic and could harm agriculture or manufacturing by competing for land and raising power costs.

Renewable energy has been part of Australia’s energy grid for some time. Speaking to Sky News, Nationals leader David Littleproud stated, “There is a place for renewables. The best place for them is where they can’t destroy the environment, like on rooftops in populated areas. Renewables will remain part of our grid.”

It is unclear whether the Coalition plans to reduce financial incentives for renewable energy companies.

Carbon Projects

If the Coalition is elected, the demand for carbon projects is likely to continue. The Coalition first implemented the main policy underpinning carbon projects, called the safeguard mechanism. This sets an emissions limit for big emitters, like electricity and mining companies, forcing them to purchase offsets if they exceed the limit.

Since taking power, Labor has strengthened the safeguard mechanism, making those limits decline year-on-year until 2030 to align with the 43% reduction target. Labour’s policy is expected to raise the price of carbon credits before the decade’s end. It remains unclear where the Coalition plans to take the safeguard mechanism if elected.

Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) remains a part of the Coalition’s plan. This involves taking waste CO2 from power stations and pumping it into the ground. It has been controversial in Australian agriculture, especially after mining giant Glencore planned to pump CO2 into the Great Artesian Basin. The proposal was denied by the State Government after lobbying from agriculture, environmentalists, and regional communities concerned about its impact on an important water source.

While the opposition calls on the Federal Government to rule out similar projects, it still supports CCS in appropriate areas. Littleproud cited a recent US$1.2bn investment from the US Government in gas with CCS as part of the plan.

Nuclear Energy Plan

The Coalition plans to transform Australia’s existing coal-fired power stations into nuclear power stations. This would provide baseload power for the nation’s energy grid with no emissions. While nuclear power is used in many countries, it is currently banned in Australia. Ironically, the ban was enacted by the 1998 Howard Government in a deal to build a research reactor near Sydney.

Overturning the ban will be the first challenge for the Coalition if elected. The current Government has shown no support for overturning the ban or including nuclear in the national energy mix. They rely on a CSIRO report stating nuclear would cost twice as much as renewables to build and take 15 years to construct.

Nuclear will also be a tough sell to crossbenchers like the Greens and Teal MPs, who were successful in inner-city seats in the last election. “No nuclear power and nuclear weapons” is a headline policy of the Greens, and the Teals also push for renewables over nuclear.

The Coalition argues that while nuclear is expensive and takes time to pay back, it is a long-term solution providing baseload power for industries like manufacturing.

The Coalition’s pledge to abandon the 2030 emissions target and focus on nuclear energy presents a significant shift in Australia’s energy and environmental policy. This change could ease pressure on renewable energy development but raises questions about the future of carbon projects and the role of CCS. The impact on agriculture will depend on how these policies unfold and whether the Coalition can navigate the political and practical challenges of implementing nuclear energy.