Tony Abbott has called for Australia to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.
Delivering the Bob Carter Commemorative Lecture in Melbourne, Mr Abbott said his government in 2015 had set a 2030 emissions reduction target “on the basis that this was more or less what could be achieved without new government programs and without new costs on the economy”.
“There was no advice then to the effect that it would take a Clean Energy Target or a National Energy Guarantee (NEG) to get there,” he said.
“My government never put emissions reduction ahead of the wellbeing of families and the prosperity of industries.”
The former PM said it is time for the Australia to pull out of the Paris Agreement, following the lead of the US.
“When the world’s leading country withdraws, it can hardly be business as usual,” he said.
“Absent America, my government would not have signed up to the Paris treaty, certainly not with the current target.
“As long as we remain in the Paris Agreement – which is about reducing emissions, not building prosperity – all policy touching on emissions will be about their reduction, not our well-being.
“Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement that is driving the NEG would be the best way to keep prices down and employment up; and to save our party from a political legacy that could haunt us for the next decade at least.”
Mr Abbott said he understood why the government wanted to solve the energy trilemma of keeping the lights on, lowering power prices and reducing emissions, but said there’s no plausible evidence all three can be done at the same time.
“If you read the NEG documentation, there’s a few lines about lower prices, a few pages about maintaining supply, and page after impenetrable page about reducing emissions,” he said.
“The government is kidding us when it says it’s all about reducing prices when there’s an emissions reduction target plus a reliability target but no price target.
“On my reading, the only certainty that the NEG as it stands would provide is the certainty of emissions reduction.”
Mr Abbott repeated his call for more investment in new coal power stations for baseload power.
“The only way to make the proposed new system affordable and reliable is to supplement it with guaranteed baseload power,” he said.
“A good start to real change would be to threaten compulsory acquisition of the Liddell coal-fired power station so that it can be kept running until new high-efficiency, low emissions plants are brought on line.”
Climate Councillor and energy expert Professor Andrew Stock said building new coal power stations is far from the cheapest option for replacing Australia’s ageing, inefficient and polluting coal fleet.
“Australia’s existing coal power stations already struggle to operate in extreme weather conditions, including severe heatwaves, with Australia’s coal and gas power stations tripping more than 40 times during the 2017-18 summer,” he said.
“Bringing on renewable energy such as wind and solar plants, paired with battery storage, are cheaper, faster to build and more reliable than new coal and gas.”
He said the NEG was a “woefully inadequate response” to climate change that risks derailing Australia’s renewable energy and storage sector.
“Australia needs a credible climate and energy policy in order to accelerate the transition away from ageing, inefficient and polluting coal towards clean renewable energy and storage solutions.” he said