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What to expect from the new Australian government?

In May, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) achieved a majority government while the Greens and independents hold the balance of power in the Senate. This signals a new era for Australia, with voters clearly putting climate change high on the agenda for the next three years.

Prior to the change in government, Australia had committed to achieving net zero by 2050 with a reduction in emissions of between 26 and 28% by 2030. The latter target has now changed to a 43% reduction by 2030 indicating a clear focus on environmental policy and renewable energy. In addition, the ALP campaigned that 80% of energy would be generated from renewable sources by 2030. 

While it’s still early days for the new government, there were several things that were promised during the election campaign that we can expect to see over the coming months. These include:
●    A review of the Safeguard Mechanism that applies to companies that emit more than 100,000t of Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions a year and the Australian carbon credit system. The aim of these reviews are likely to gradually reduce the baselines for emitters, adding urgency to decarbonisation and improving the integrity of existing programs; 
●    An investment of $20 billion to modernise our energy grid. This includes enabling renewable technologies and battery production to support carbon-intensive industries. It is also likely to include a fund to invest in green metals. Industry reform is also likely to need mechanisms to enable regulatory frameworks to integrate renewables and exit coal fired generators; 
●    An investment of $200 million to build community batteries to enable electricity to be stored and drawn from. In addition, solar banks will be created for communities to also assist in bringing energy prices down;
●    Support to develop onshore processing for critical minerals;
●    A National Electric Vehicle Strategy to increase uptake of electric vehicles. This may include discounts, tax concessions and the manufacture of electric vehicle components locally;
●    A review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). This will hopefully give businesses more certainty about project approvals, processes and timeframes. It may also consider the nature of involvement that First Nations people have in the decision making process as well as the compliance and enforcement regime under the Act;  
●    The establishment of a national Environment Protection Agency that is responsible for compliance, assurance and environmental data and analysis;
●    Additional funding to the Saving Native Species Program and the introduction of a national conservation strategy. This may also include the establishment of a National Water Commission;
●    A move to new energy sources also requires additional skills and reskilling of those whose jobs are being retired. We’re likely to see investments made to upskill people for jobs in the renewables sector and certain areas of agriculture; and
●    Improving resilience in the face of climate change is another important aspect of policy. This is likely to include a review of vulnerable government-owned assets and putting in place a Disaster Readiness Plan.
In his speech as Prime Minister-elect, Anthony Albanese said that Australia will become a “renewable energy superpower”. Achieving this won’t be easy but we expect to see rapid developments in this space in the coming months.  

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