South Australia Legislates Nation's First Greenhouse Gas Limits

ADELAIDE, Australia, July 3, 2007 (ENS) - Australia's first climate change legislation became law today. It is not national legislation, it applies only to the state of South Australia, but in the country that has followed the United States in its reluctance to join international climate action, the new law is viewed as a big step.

The Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 makes South Australia the first place in Australia to legislate targets to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. The law also requires a renewable energy standard.

South Australia's Premier Mike Rann (Photo courtesy Office of the Premier)

South Australia continues to lead the way for the rest of the nation when it comes to climate change - and we are on track to achieve the legislated target of 20 percent of our state’s power coming from renewable sources by 2014," said South Australia's Premier Mike Rann.

"The legislation commits the government to work with business and the community to develop and put in place strategies that will put our state in a position to take early action to reduce greenhouse emissions and adapt to climate change," the premier said.

But the state's only Green legislator, Mark Parnell, is not satisfied with the new targets.

"No matter how much Premier Rann tries to spin this," Parnell said, "he can’t get around the fact that his greenhouse pollution target for 1990 is a licence to increase, not decrease the state’s emissions over the next 13 years."

The Bill was introduced to Parliament on December 6, 2006 following a consultation period in mid-2006. It passed through the House of Assembly on March 7 and then passed through the Legislative Council on March 29 with amendments.

The Bill then returned to the House of Assembly for further consideration, before being adopted on June 20. The measure was proclaimed as law today.

The legislation sets out three targets:

Premier Rann says industries large and small are well aware that they can reduce greenhouse emissions and grow their businesses at the same time.

"The two ideals are not mutually exclusive – as some people seem to believe," he said today.

"Some industries, such as the wine industry, need to prove their green credentials in order to grow their exports – especially to markets in countries such as the UK which are demanding wines that are grown using environmentally sustainable methods.

"It is vital that what we do as a state to reduce greenhouse emissions goes hand in hand with economic development and community well-being," he said.

South Australia's Northern / Thomas Playford power plant burns coal to generate power and in the process emits greenhouse gases. (Photo courtesyNRG Flinders Power)
The states and territories of Australia reached a joint agreement on greenhouse gas emissions trading to fight climate change in April 2005.

The federal government, under Prime Minister John Howard, has declined to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, so the states and territories have initiated their own emissions reduction scheme.

In emissions trading systems a cap is set on the total volume of greenhouse gases that can be emitted. The cap is divided into tradeable permits, each equivalent to one metric ton of carbon dioxide. Participating companies are required to hold a number of permits greater or equal to their actual emissions.

The right to emit carbon dioxide becomes a tradeable commodity, creating a new market that places a price on greenhouse gas emissions and provides an incentive to find new and smarter ways of reducing emissions.

On ABC Radio Thursday, Premier Rann said that South Australia would be "world leading" by matching California's "return to 1990 greenhouse pollution levels by 2020" target.

His claim that his legislation would be, with California, the "most advanced in the world" was immediately disputed by Parnell.

"Even a cursory examination shows this is wrong," Parnell argued. "California is currently well above its 1990 pollution levels – in 2002 they were 11.5 percent above and increasing every year - so legislation they passed in 2006 to return California to 1990 greenhouse levels was a major and exciting commitment," he said.

Meanwhile, Parnell pointed out South Australia is 6.5 percent below its 1990 greenhouse pollution level right now, so a "return to 1990 levels is actually a legislated increase," he said.

Green Member of the Legislative Council, South Australia Mark Parnell (Photo courtesy SA Greens)
"It might be the same words in the target, but the effect is completely different," said Parnell. "While California will be helping the world avoid dangerous climate change, it appears Mike Rann is planning for South Australia to go in the opposite direction."

"For the Greens, that is simply untenable," said Parnell. "We simply can not support a target that completely ignores the latest IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report, which says the world’s greenhouse pollution emissions have to start decreasing by 2015 if we are to have any chance of avoiding dangerous climate change."

Australia's Climate Action Network, an alliance of over 30 regional, state and national environmental, health, community development, and research groups, supports a target to reduce climate change emissions by at least 30 percent by 2020 - not just in South Australia but across the country.

The Network maintains that if Australia introduced a 25 percent renewable energy target by 2020 the country would not only fight climate change, "it would deliver at least 16,600 new jobs for Australians, generate $33 billion in new investment and create enough renewable electricity to power every home in Australia."

The nation's largest environmental group, the Australian Conservation Foundation, is pressing for a national emissions trading scheme. The Foundation says the primary objective must be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 to 90 percent by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

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