June 2021

Australian Renewable Energy Agency Amendment Regulations 2021

It is a pleasure to speak against this disallowance motion because I believe in ARENA and I believe in supporting its work into the future. Since its creation ARENA has committed $1.58 billion of funding towards 543 different renewable energy projects. In doing so, it has helped accelerate the shift towards renewable energy that is both affordable and reliable. The Clean Energy Regulator estimates that last year, 2020, we had seven gigawatts of renewable energy capacity installed. That beat by 11 per cent the figure of 6.3 gigawatts in 2019, which itself was a record. One in four Australian households now have solar, one of the highest uptakes in the world, and Australia's deployment of wind and solar is happening 10 times faster than the global average.

In the first weeks of 2020 Australia ticked past 25 gigawatts of wind and solar generation, making us one of only three countries in the world to have more than one kilowatt of renewable energy generation capacity per capita. Forty per cent of this new capacity has been installed in the past two years. It shows that progress here isn't linear, it's exponential. We've seen this in the continued fall in our emissions. In the year to December 2020 our emissions were 499 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent That was five per cent—or 26.1 million tonnes—lower than in 2019, the equivalent of taking half of our national fleet of light vehicles off the road entirely. We are now 20 per cent lower than our 2005 levels of baseline for our 2030 Paris Agreement target.

I noticed that some of those opposite were saying, 'We're taking this to the G7 and we'll be ashamed of our record.' Let's look at what the G7 countries have done. The OECD average, over the same period, for a reduction in emissions from 2005 is nine per cent. New Zealand is one per cent. Canada is less than one per cent. The United States is 10 per cent. Here we are, in Australia, with a 20 per cent reduction in emissions since 2005. We've got further to go but we are well on the way.

Whilst we've made great gains in reducing our emissions from the electricity generation sector; as many here would know, this accounts for only one-third of our emissions. If we are to continue to play our part and do our share in reducing CO2 emissions, if we are in concert with the rest of the world to get to net zero by 2050 or preferably earlier, then reducing emissions from our electricity generation is necessary but it's not sufficient. Our greenhouse gas inventory of December 2020 makes this clear: electricity generation is 33 per cent of our emissions, stationary energy is 20 per cent of our emissions, transport is 18 per cent, fugitive emissions in industrial processes is 16 per cent and agriculture is 15 per cent. So decarbonising our electricity sector alone will not get us to net zero. We also need to find ways to decarbonise industrial processes, to electrify transport, to create clean fuels, to find carbon savings—things such as soil carbon and carbon capture and storage—and to find offsets for emissions from processes that would be hard to decarbonise, like agriculture.

This is exactly what these regulations will allow us to do, and exactly what these regulations will allow ARENA to do. It will use government investment to bring a portfolio of technologies to commercial parity so we can reduce our emissions across every sector of the economy. This is the next frontier for our journey to net zero. In our December 2020 greenhouse gas inventory we found that the Gorgon CCS project—people on the other side were knocking carbon capture and storage—now that it has come online, has contributed to the reduction of our fugitive emissions by 4.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

These regulations that we're debating today will allow ARENA to invest in a wider range of clean energy technologies and, by and large, these changes have been welcomed. As the BCA said, expanding the scope of ARENA will 'encourage new low, zero and negative emissions technology in sectors like agriculture, transport and manufacturing'. The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network said, 'Removing constraints on ARENA and the CEFC to enable them to utilise the full range of low, zero and negative emission technologies is a sensible approach.' The Investor Group on Climate Change said this is 'valuable for creating opportunities for negative and zero emissions technologies in harder to abate industries'.

These regulations will allow ARENA to focus on the next generation of technologies. Since ARENA was first established, in 2011, there have been significant changes in technology and energy markets. Renewable technologies like solar and wind are already commercial and being deployed at a rapid rate. What these regulations will allow ARENA to focus on are things like energy efficiency, support for low-emissions transport and electric vehicles, all forms of clean hydrogen, soil carbon, technologies that reduce emissions from aluminium and steel, and carbon capture technologies, including CCS. The goal here is to get to net zero, not absolute zero.

Why is Labor opposed to these regulations? The member for McMahon argued this morning that we wanted to water down ARENA's mandate. He's got it all wrong. What we are doing is modernising ARENA's mandate, not watering it down. We're doing exactly what people like Bill Gates and the International Energy Agency have urged us to do. Lower-emissions technology, beyond just renewable electricity, will be critical to our pathway to net zero. To believe otherwise is a classic case of putting ideological zealotry ahead of practical outcomes, of allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is someone who pretends to care about climate change but is in fact opposed to doing anything practical about it. You cannot talk about a crisis and then, in the same breath, disavow all the measures you can use to address that crisis.

I know the member for McMahon has a track record of impractical policy and ignoring the advice of experts. He led his own party over the precipice at the last election when he took $387 billion in new tax proposals to the electorate and told those who questioned his policy not to vote for Labor. Unsurprisingly, many took his advice. This was also the minister for immigration, from 2010 to 2013, who oversaw 50,000 unlawful arrivals, 1,200 deaths at sea and 8½ thousand children in immigration detention. I fear for those opposite that the member for McMahon is doing the same this time around. As the member for Hunter recently said:

… after 14 years of trying, the Labor Party has made not one contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in this country.

I urge those opposite to break this drought. Give ARENA the tools and the mandate it needs to drive reduced emissions across all sectors of the economy. Vote against this act of self-harm. Vote against this disallowance motion.

The SPEAKER: The question is that the motion moved by the member for Melbourne be disagreed to.