Legislative Council

QUESTION: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets for SA

September 29th, 2017

On 29th of September 2017, Mark asked the neglected Minister for Climate Change a question about state greenhouse emissions reduction targets.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Nearly two years ago, in November 2015, the minister released South Australia's Climate Change Strategy 2015-2050, entitled Towards a Low Carbon Economy. Amongst the measures included in that strategy was a commitment to move our state to net zero emissions by the year 2050. To quote the strategy:

A net zero emissions target is critical to limit global temperature rise to under two degrees Celsius. This will signal the government's commitment to a low carbon economy and reinforce our national and international leadership on climate change.

But there's more: the strategy also commits the government to amend legislation to include the state's new target of net zero emissions by 2050. The strategy states:

To send a clear and consistent signal to the South Australian community, the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 will be amended to legislate for the state's new emissions reduction target of net zero emissions by 2050…This will not only signal the government's clear intent, but will also provide policy certainty to businesses, critical for ensuring an effective and just transition process.

Ten years ago, the state target for greenhouse gas reduction by the year 2050 was 60 per cent. That may have seemed ambitious 10 years ago, but with our current understanding of the pace of climate change it's clearly inadequate today. Last year was the hottest year on record globally. Previously, the hottest year was 2015. Before that, the hottest year was 2014. In fact, the record for the hottest year on record globally has been broken five times since this act passed the parliament in 2007.

My question to the minister is: why haven't you introduced legislation, as promised, to amend the state's emissions reduction target, or have you in fact abandoned that target?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change): Thank you, Mr President. Through you, sir, I would like to answer the Hon. Mr Parnell and reassure him that in fact we haven't abandoned any such target; in fact, we have been hitting our targets way ahead of time. As he has noted in his lengthy preamble, we actually have a target now of not just 50 per cent by 2025, which he is well aware of, but net zero by 2050.

You would think that the Hon. Mr Parnell would be the first to congratulate us on that well publicised target. Every target we have set so far, we have hit years before time. I do not hear the Hon. Mr Parnell jumping up in this chamber commending the government on achieving our targets way ahead of time. I don't see him doing that. That would be fantastic if he just got up in this chamber and said, 'Well done, Weatherill Labor government, not only are you hitting your targets, you're hitting them early.' I would be very pleased when he sends me a postcard to congratulate us on hitting those targets way ahead of time.

I am advised that in late May 2017 the federal government released emissions data for states and territories for the financial year 2014-15. This information is still being analysed by my agency. I have only had emissions data as it relates to last year's report, being greenhouse emissions from states and territories 2013-14, but I think the honourable member might be pleased at least to have those.

According to the data, South Australia's net greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions associated with net electricity imports, were 29.7 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2013-14. The 2013-14 inventory indicates that from the 1989-90 baseline, emissions have declined from 32.4 megatons to 29.7 megatons, or by 8.2 per cent. This reduction, it's worth noting, has been achieved whilst the economy grew by more than 70 per cent.

I will not dwell too much on the baseline, although it is a trick of the trade. When you see the federal government trying to talk about their achievements in this area, they move the baseline period. They move it way past the 1990 baseline to try to make their figures look better, but in fact they are just fudging them because they know they have not got anything to boast about in terms of climate change initiatives or even emissions reduction.

They have put in place the most useless emissions reduction program. In fact, it was a program instituted by then prime minister Tony Abbott that Malcolm Turnbull—who was not, of course, prime minister at the time—ridiculed as being useless, expensive and never able to reach the emissions reductions required to meet our COP21 targets.

Something else that the chamber should be aware of as well, if the Hon. Mr Parnell isn't, is that recently a report was released by the Climate Council. The Climate Council is an independent national body that provides advice on climate change and also tracks what governments and others are doing to help tackle this global challenge.

The council report 'Renewables Ready: States Leading the Charge,' released last month, shows South Australia leads the nation on renewable technologies. It's an incredibly exciting time to not only see—if the Hon. Mr Parnell won't—at least the Climate Council will acknowledge that we are leading the country in terms of emissions reduction programs and indeed the update on—

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: Where's the bill?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The Hon. Mr Parnell thinks there's some satisfaction—

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Parnell, will you please make all comments through the Chair at the appropriate time?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The Greens—the party of hypocrisy. We will have to forgive them that. The Hon. Mr Parnell thinks there's some satisfaction to be had in some legislation, but I tell him again: when we set the targets, we beat them. We smashed them out of the stadium. This Labor government is committed to our targets of 50 per cent by 2025 and net zero by 2050. Every target we have set for ourselves before then, we have not only reached, we have reached years ahead. That is what the Hon. Mr Parnell should be congratulating us for, not saying that we should be legislating for these targets. We have made these promises public. And not only that, we have delivered on them, and we will continue to do so.

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