7 August 2022

Greens energise government with gas-phase out and other 'crazy' ideas

| Ian Bushnell
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Shane Rattenbury

ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury’s pragmatic approach is reaping policy dividends. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The ACT will turn off the gas by 2045. The Greens would have it happen even earlier – by 2040.

And that difference produced some 2020 heat between them and Labor, although how much was election theatre, we do not know.

At that time, Chief Minister Andrew Barr, in campaign mode, said Labor would not support any “crazy Greens proposal” which would see households forced to switch off gas appliances before they were ready to.

He also said that electricity alone would not be enough during winter to keep Canberrans warm.

So 2045 it is, and the transition is meant to be a gentle one with a combination of carrots and regulatory sticks to guide the phase-out.

But don’t be surprised if it does happen sooner because, in the two years since the election, a lot has changed, and now with a Labor federal government committed to decarbonising the economy, the market forces already underway will accelerate.

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The combination of design, insulation and simple energy efficiency measures with more efficient air conditioners and heat pumps means switching to electric appliances won’t have you searching for an extra jumper.

Not to mention the advances made with induction cooking and its declining costs.

Powered by renewable sources, either from your rooftop solar panels and battery, neighbourhood battery or the ACT grid, that’s 20 per cent of current emissions eliminated.

And the sooner one transitions, the sooner those skyrocketing gas bills can disappear.

Who knows what advances will come in the next decade?

Canberrans, helped along by rebates and interest-free loans, are already dumping gas, but the property owners likely to drag their feet on this are landlords unwilling to spend money they don’t have to.

READ ALSO New petrol cars to be banned from 2035 as ACT waves goodbye to fossil fuels

It’s going to take legislation to get some of them to provide insulation as part of the coming minimum standards requirements, but the government hopes the incentives available will be enough to encourage them to refit for electrics without waving too many sticks.

The government had at one point considered biogas and hydrogen as a fuel replacement, but that is now off the table at least for residential use. However, hydrogen is in the mix for the ACT’s small amount of industry, including heavy transport.

For some, change will not be easy. A few remain attached to fossil fuel, especially chefs convinced cooking won’t be the same or those who fear homes won’t be heated or industry will collapse.

Some still refuse to accept that the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

But cut them we must.

The phase-out is also testament to the forward-thinking and persistence of the ACT Greens, mocked in 2016 by Labor and Liberal alike when it unveiled the policy and again in 2020.

It reflects the impact the ACT Greens have had on government, the tangible change they have achieved and the credibility they now have as a political force.

Not every Green policy will appeal to the mainstream, but leader Shane Rattenbury is pragmatic enough to know which ones are within reach and which ones are worth convincing voters to support, as well as juggling the political realities of working with Labor in government.

It’s a model Greens outside the ACT should emulate.

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What started as a crazy idea is now another solid plank in the ACT’s growing reputation as a world leader in the move to a zero-emissions future.

And Labor is now happy to claim credit, as with another Greens idea – the move to ban new internal combustion engine vehicles from 2035.

There will be grumbles, but gas’s flame will eventually sputter out.

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HiddenDragon6:53 pm 08 Aug 22

“Some still refuse to accept that the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.”

Beijing’s mother-of-all dummy spits over Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan includes using that as a pretext to no longer even pretend that it will do anything other than exactly what suits it about climate change, so “Some” now includes the 1.4bn people who produce 30% or more of the world’s measured/estimated emissions.

This new reality (which will be nowhere near offset by the Congressional vote in favour of Biden’s watered down climate initiatives) will, of course, be completely ignored by the posturing twits who call the shots in this little town. The silver lining is that there will be customers, for longer than might have been anticipated, for Australia’s fossil fuel exports – so there should be funds to pay for all those imported electrical appliances and the other “green” technology (produced with our fossil fuel and minerals exports) with which the ACT is going to save the planet.

Labor and their Green mates – if you are top of the town, you’re OK

Strange that there isn’t one mention of the economics and significant additional costs that will be borne due to the phase out. Both within the home and from wider impacts.

Only a flippant line about sky rocketing gas costs (which could actually be reversed quite easily with the same types of government action the author promotes here)

Actually, as a Greens policy, it’s ironic that this article glosses over those costs, just like the Greens always do.

If you’re going to promote a policy, at least acknowledge the significant negative impacts and legitimate criticisms people have.

Whilst lowering our carbon impact over time is a good thing, it needs to be balanced with the effectiveness and costs of the measures and what impact it will have on a national and global scale, which are the only ones that matter.

The only saving grace is that the timeline for transition is 20+ years, which will allow more detailed and effective transition plans to be developed and implemented. If the Greens had their way, that timeline would be much shorter and the costs far higher.

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