Statement on COAG Energy Council meeting and Paris Agreement Statement

Oct 06, 2016 - 4:20pm

The Climate Institute is participating in and facilitating the summary of proceedings at today’s SA energy summit, ahead of the COAG Energy Council meeting.

Today’s summit comes on a historic day - enough countries have ratified the Paris Agreement to bring it into force next month* – years earlier than expected.

This adds even more urgency to the challenges facing Australia’s energy system. Yesterday’s interim AEMO report identified problems in our current energy framework that need to be recognised, but seen as challenges that need to be overcome, not reasons for paralysis or go-slows.

Letter to COAG Energy Ministers
We have sent a letter to COAG Energy Ministers which outlines key steps COAG needs to take to achieve the electricity system’s essential tasks. As the Prime Minister outlined yesterday, these are energy security, affordability, and emissions reductions consistent with the Paris agreement. The latter is an important and welcome affirmation.

The Paris agreement was a commitment by 190 countries, including Australia, to help keep global warming “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as well as to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. This requires, as the agreement specifies, emissions to reach net zero levels. Achieving a net zero energy system is essential to this goal.

Warming is currently around 1°C above pre-industrial levels.

Last month The Climate Institute released ground-breaking research into the implications of 1.5 and 2°C warming for Australia – in summary, it found that current rare weather extremes will become the new normal under 1.5°C warming, and that at 2°C the climate system will move into uncharted territory.

Our letter calls on the COAG Ministers to agree on four things:

  1. Commission a risk assessment of the preparedness of electricity infrastructure to cope with extreme weather and integrate climate resilience into the energy market framework.
  2. Begin to plan for the inevitable replacement of our aging coal-fired generators with clean energy.
  3. Ensure that any review of electricity markets considers our obligations and undertakings under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  4. Agree on the terms of reference for the 2017 federal climate policy review.

As the Federal government has been highlighting their 2017 national policy review as the forum for developing national policies with which they wish states to align, we suggest that COAG Ministers agree on the Terms of Reference for that review. We suggest the Terms of Reference should include definitions of an emissions target and pathway to 2050, the role of the electricity sector in that pathway, and the elements of the electricity system that will need to evolve to ensure the delivery of secure, affordable, net zero emissions energy. The terms of reference should also explicitly incorporate the latest in climate science and longer term plans for Australia to help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

* For the Paris agreement to come into force, at least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of global emissions, are required to ratify it. With ratifications from China, the U.S., India, NZ and sufficient other countries, these twin tests were passed overnight. In August, Ministers Bishop and Frydenberg described ratification of this agreement as in Australia’s national interest and the Joint Standing Committee conducted hearings last week and today as part of the government intention to also ratify this year.

See below to download the letter.

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