The ACT’s climate change measures, including the phasing out of gas, could be at risk under a Liberal Government, according to Minister for Climate Change and ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury.
While the Canberra Liberals have backed the ACT’s emission reduction goals and the sourcing of 100 per cent of the Territory’s electricity from renewables, the party has opposed the government ban on the roll-out of gas infrastructure in new suburbs and its planned phase-out of gas use by 2045.
The Opposition is yet to unveil its climate change policy, apart from its million trees proposal, but says it will deliver real and practical solutions to protect the local environment and ensure a sustainable future for all.
Its focus has been on cost of living pressures and the Canberra Liberals are reluctant to back initiatives that it sees as imposing another expense on households.
Mr Rattenbury, speaking last week at the Canberra Hospital Expansion announcement, said that it would be an all-electric operation, but the Liberals had opposed every practical measure brought to the Assembly, such as the extension of the energy efficiency improvement scheme and measures to curb transport emissions.
”When Canberrans go to the polls in October they need to look at not just glib references but what people are actually committing to, what they’re prepared to put money into.”
A Liberal spokesperson did not say whether the party would retain the gas-free plans for the Canberra Hospital Expansion.
”The Canberra Liberals will be announcing our Health Plan in due course,” the spokesperson said.
”Our policies are focused on real and practical solutions to reduce blown-out waiting lists, ensure children don’t have to wait four years to see a specialist, back our nurses, doctors and hospital staff who are under immense pressure and work unsustainably long hours and ensure our hospital infrastructure supports the needs of our growing community to provide quick and equal access to healthcare,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Rattenbury said the gas-free plans would be built-in to the design and there would be no reason to walk away from the commitment.
On the gas phase-out, the spokesperson said a Liberal Government would not be making life harder for families who rely on gas.
”We won’t force struggling families into the cold by turning off gas in the ACT,” the spokesperson said.
But Mr Rattenbury said Australia had a decade at the most to make a serious dent in its climate emissions and needed to move straight to all-electric options, not prop up the gas industry as proposed by the Federal Government under the cover of the COVID-19 recovery.
”Our community gets it. We’ve already seen a significant number of households make the decision themselves to move away from gas because they know from a climate point of view they need to do it, and frankly they’re finding economic savings,” he said.
Mr Rattenbury said any new gas infrastructure would be white elephant assets, and warned about a growing energy divide.
”There is a real injustice coming where people who can afford it are moving off gas and people who can’t are being left on the gas network paying for infrastructure that nobody needs,” he said.
”Governments need to take the lead and resist the advances of the gas industry to make sure that we’re delivering for our whole community.”
Asked whether the Opposition supported increasing the energy efficiency of ACT homes, the Liberal spokesperson said a Canberra Liberals government would always prioritise the needs of struggling families and households.
”Our policies will put more money back into household budgets and ensure more affordable housing options,” the spokesperson said.
While the Liberals last year criticised the government for being anti-car, the spokesperson said a Liberal government would continue the move to zero-emission buses and expanding the charging network for electric cars.
“We recognise the need for a modern and diverse transport network and have long-stated our desire to see electric vehicle infrastructure expanded to support more electric cars and buses,” the spokesperson said.