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Brumby lays down gauntlet on carbon


| Sourced From SMH |

THE Victorian government will present itself as the national leader in tackling climate change by pledging to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least a fifth over the next decade.

Launching a climate change white paper, Premier John Brumby will today promise legislation that would set a minimum target of a 20 per cent cut in emissions below 2000 levels by 2020.

The commitment will be painted as a sharp contrast to the federal climate debate, where the major parties face heavy criticism for delaying measures that could reach the bipartisan target of a 5 per cent cut in emissions.

Mr Brumby said the state target would require a transformation in the way it generated and used electricity, more than 90 per cent of which comes from high-emissions brown coal.

He said the “landmark” white paper would outline policies to put Victoria on a path to meeting the benchmark.

“Our commitment is that by 2014 Victoria will have made significant progress on reductions, and will be in a position to make even greater changes to achieve the 20 per cent goal by 2020,” Mr Brumby said.

The white paper will include recent commitments to kickstart a large-scale solar power industry to generate 5 per cent of the state’s electricity from the sun by 2020, and double an existing energy efficiency target.

Environment Victoria said the 20 per cent target showed strong leadership.

“It is head and shoulders above any other state or federal government,” Environment Victoria chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.

“While the science tells us we’ll need to go further, the Premier is building a bridge between what we are doing on climate change in Australia and what we need to be doing.”

The white paper will not explain how the full cut in annual emissions needed – 30 million tonnes below where emissions will otherwise be in 2020 – would be achieved.

Mr Brumby will promise that further policies would follow in four years once the level of national action to reduce emissions is clearer. But the 20 per cent target would stand regardless of whether there is eventually a national carbon trading scheme.

Mr Brumby’s intervention into the climate debate will be unhelpful for federal Labor, which is under fire for proposing a “citizens’ assembly” of non-experts before reviewing in 2012 whether to introduce emissions trading.

It shows that the state government has dramatically overhauled its plans since late May, when a draft climate change bill included no measures guaranteed to cut emissions.

New commitments include a voluntary greenhouse offset scheme that would allow drivers to pay a premium on their car registration to fund tree planting and environmentally friendly farming practices.

Drivers could choose to offset some or all of their car’s emissions. The government estimates a total offset would cost about $80 a year.

The scheme would be linked to a new Victorian Carbon Exchange that would enable people and businesses to invest in fully audited offset programs.

The government is also expected to outline a plan, revealed in The Age earlier this month, to close one-quarter of the Hazelwood brown coal power station by 2014. But the state would require federal help to compensate the plant’s owners, International Power.

Ms O’Shanassy said reaching the target would require large actions such as replacing Hazelwood with clean energy.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker said the target showed the government had undergone a profound shift. “This is significant, real and would actually start to peak and reduce emissions,” he said.

But opposition environment spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said the government had a track record of setting targets and not meeting them.

“John Brumby has to explain to Victorian families how much more they are going to pay for their electricity,” she said.

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