CLIMATE FUTURES BILL 2007
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS
[2.30 p.m.]: Prior to question time I outlined the cycles that have a significant impact on this planet's climate. The convergence of many is largely unknown and to impose the simplistic solution of shutting down the New South Wales coal industry is to ignore those effects. The proponent of the Climate Futures Bill correctly stated that coal is carbon and that when carbon is burnt it produces carbon dioxide. Dr John Kaye also stated that 226 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced from the burning and mining of coal. The member did not mention that national parks are carbon and that when they burn they also produce carbon dioxide. I analysed the fire in the Goonoo Community Conservation Area near Dubbo a couple of years ago. I am sure that the Hon. Tony Kelly will recall that very serious fire. It occurred in an area that had been locked up for a number of years at the insistence of the Greens.
The Hon. Tony Kelly:
The Greens political party.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS:
Yes, the political party. I estimated that 170 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 629 tonnes of carbon dioxide, were emitted from each hectare burnt. The fire covered some 50,000 hectares of forested land, so that one fire alone pumped nearly 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The Hon. Tony Kelly:
It is a pity that it had not been logged first.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS:
It should have been. It had been logged for a long time and the biodiversity in the forest resulted from the active management of the Forestry Commission. Dr John Kaye, who introduced the bill, justifies revoking the approval of the Anvil Hill coalmine by stating that the mine will produce about 10.5 million tonnes of coal or 27 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. That is less than the amount produced by one wildfire in one national park each year. A far better plan would be to prevent the destruction of the environment caused by wildfires in national parks. That single achievement would prevent far more carbon dioxide emissions than shutting down the coal industry of New South Wales.
I will clarify the amount of coal under discussion. China, which takes a reasonable proportion of our exported cool, uses about 2.4 billion tonnes of coal each year, of which about 1.4 billion tonnes is used for electricity generation. New South Wales uses about 50 million tonnes of coal for electricity generation. Australia's exports of coal are about 220 million tonnes a year. China imports only 100 million tonnes of the coal it uses, so the vast majority of the coal it burns is from local mines. Interestingly, if Australia did not produce one molecule of carbon dioxide from now on, China would take up that slack in seven or eight months. Therefore, shutting down the coal industry of New South Wales would not have any impact on the global emissions of carbon dioxide. Of course, it is ridiculous to suggest that it would save the planet.
If the proponent of the bill were serious about cleaning up the Australian coal industry he would be promoting it and attempting to reduce coal consumption, particularly in Victoria because the coal it mines is of far lower quality than the coal mined in New South Wales. Shutting down the coal industry of New South Wales would cut off supplies of the best burning coal in Australia, which would be deleterious to the entire State. In conclusion, I reiterate the final statement of the ACIL Tasman report that we have access to.
Dr John Kaye:
Have some guts and table it, so we can see what it says.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS:
The member can read all about it in my speech tomorrow. The report stated:
In order to understand the implications for the NSW economy of this bill if it were to become law, detailed modelling of the electricity market and the NSW economy would need to be undertaken. It is apparent that the proponents of the bill have not undertaken this modelling and they would therefore have no understanding of its implications.
The proponents of the bill have obviously not considered the bill in detail. They have not done the necessary modelling. I call on all honourable members to reject the bill outright.
The Hon. TONY KELLY
(Minister for Lands, Minister for Rural Affairs, Minister for Regional Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [2.40 p.m.]: The New South Wales Government will not support the bill. It proposes very high arbitrary targets for renewable energy generation rather than allowing generators to choose least-cost emission reduction options. This will increase the generators' cost, which will ultimately be borne through higher electricity prices. I would like to address the bill's two major tenets: phasing out the coal industry and prohibiting the development of new coal-fired power stations, and imposing very high targets for renewable energy generation.
The New South Wales coal industry makes a major contribution to the economic wellbeing of our State. Direct employment in the coal industry as at 30 June 2007, this year, was over 13,300 jobs. The industry creates many times this number of jobs indirectly in mining and non-related services. Importantly, the coal industry is a major employer in regional New South Wales. The coal industry provides a major economic stimulus to local communities such as those in the Hunter. The Hon. Rick Colless mentioned places such as Gunnedah and Mudgee. New South Wales is presently heavily reliant on coal as a source of energy and our economy gains much from coal exports. Approximately 70 per cent of saleable coal produced is exported to some 24 countries and provided $6.2 billion in value in 2006-07. The Greens would deny the State those jobs and that income.
A significant part of the State's workforce is either directly or indirectly reliant on the coal industry or its products. The current standard of living enjoyed by residents of New South Wales can be, at least in part, attributed to the benefits we derive from plentiful and relatively inexpensive availability of electrical energy produced in coal-fired power stations. We probably have some of the cheapest electricity in the world, and New South Wales has the cheapest electricity in Australia—much of it due to the fact that we have coal-fired power stations. While power stations consume about 85 per cent of all domestic coal, some 15 per cent is used in our steel works. A prohibition on new coalmines or on the expansion of existing coalmines is not practical. It would endanger those jobs as well.
Approved new mines and expansions are necessary to replace older mines, sustain the industry and provide vital regional employment and economic activity. As each new mine is developed it is safer than the previous one. All new coalmine proposals are fully considered under the Government's comprehensive planning legislation. The development, assessment and approval process for coalmine proposals is extensive, transparent and rigorous, and provides for community input. All relevant environmental, cultural and heritage issues, including cumulative impacts, are comprehensively considered in this process. Phasing out the industry will not achieve the emissions reduction purposes of the bill because, first, coalmines are only directly responsible for 9 per cent of New South Wales greenhouse gas emissions and, second, the overseas buyers of New South Wales coal can source their coal needs from elsewhere, including from sources that would result in higher greenhouse gas emissions than come from New South Wales coal.
The Hon. Rick Colless has already mentioned this, but I think I should mention it again to reiterate it. If the Greens were fair dinkum about wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and trying to clean up the environment, they would be proposing that all the power that is produced from New South Wales, from Victoria and from Queensland should all be produced from New South Wales coal, because it is so much better for the environment than that dirty Victorian and dirty Queensland coal. If they were fair dinkum, that is what they would be pushing for, not to close down our mines here—the best coal, the cleanest coal—and then call on the other States to take up the slack, causing worse outcomes for the environment. Instead, they are trying to close down the best we have.
The Hon. Rick Colless:
It is called voodoo logic.
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
Voodoo logicthat is a good description. In contrast, the Government's priority is to allow the industry to serve its market within any carbon limits that may be agreed internationally. To support that approach the Government has consistently supported mechanisms to reduce global emissions, such as Australia's ratification of the Kyoto protocol, despite the Commonwealth Government's unwillingness. In addition, the New South Wales Government has committed, in the State Plan, to meet national air quality goals in New South Wales and to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. The New South Wales Government and industry are actively working together through partnerships with organisations such as the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies, Coal21 and the CSIRO on clean coal technologies to help curb greenhouse gas emissions, including technologies for the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide and safe geological storage sites.
In March 2007 the Government announced it would spend $20 million on two pilot clean-coal projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power stations in New South Wales. On 27 September 2007 the Government announced that a $5 million pilot carbon capture plant would be developed through a joint initiative between Delta Electricity and the CSIRO. This pilot post-combustion capture facility will capture greenhouse gas emissions from the Munmorah Power Station on the State's Central Coast and is expected to be operational by mid-2008. It is hoped this project will provide the foundation for a large-scale, $150 million post-combustion capture and storage demonstration project in New South Wales that should be operational by 2013 and capturing more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. The development of further coal export facilities at the port of Newcastle is in response to the increased international demand for the State's high-quality export coal. The new terminal will provide necessary infrastructure to help meet the future projected growth in our exports and ensure that economic benefits from the projected increase in global coal trade continue to flow to the State.
The Hon. Robert Brown:
It won't be a minute too soon.
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
True. On the prohibition on new coal-fired power stations and increasing renewable targets, I point out that the approach proposed in the Climate Futures Bill 2007 to reduce emissions from energy generation will be less effective and more expensive than those proposed by the Government. The bill addresses only one industry sector—coal-fired power stations—and mandates only one solution: renewable energy. The Government's initiatives, such as the New South Wales Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme, provide long-term low-cost solutions that are capable of being applied to a wide range of industries. The bill will result in greater costs than the Government's approach because it seeks to achieve emissions reduction by setting a higher target for renewables than that proposed by the Government.
In November 2006 the Premier announced mandatory renewable energy targets for the State's electricity companies and plans for a $220 million wind farm. Currently, renewable energy makes up around 6 per cent of the total energy used in New South Wales. Under the mandatory targets announced by the Premier, that figure will rise to 10 per cent by 2010 and to 15 per cent by 2020. This target was calculated to be achievable and not to impose excessive costs on electricity users. It was also designed to allow the emissions market to dictate investments in emissions reduction, which may include renewables but also may include other cost-effective options, such as energy efficiency or low-emissions technology. Finally, this market-based approach will allow the New South Wales renewable industry to develop to such a point where it is ready to scale up to meet any demand when national and international emissions trading regimes are finally established. The bill will not deliver cost-effective emissions reduction and will adversely affect coal industry workers and electricity consumers. The Government will not support the bill.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN
[2.48 p.m.]: The Climate Futures Bill 2007, which was introduced by Dr John Kaye, is an amazing bill. I am astounded that Dr John Kaye could believe, even in his wildest imagination, that responsible members of this House would ever support a bill that would cause so much damage to the people of the State, the people we are supposed to represent and whose interests we are supposed to protect. It is an outrageous bill. It is based on one view of global warming, the one that the Greens want to tout relentlessly.
I shall speak on climate change, particularly about whether it is a man-made problem. The Greens' mantra is that it is all our fault, that we should shut down the coal industry and stop the production of CO2
. I sometimes think that they are members of the flat earth society. They will not accept that theirs is not always the right view, let alone the only view. No-one argues that climate change is a fact. The cause of the phenomena is in question to almost everyone except the Greens. About a month ago I attended the Australian Environment Foundation conference in Melbourne and, strangely, did not see any Greens politicians in attendance or green non-government organisations even though members of those organisations were invited. That might have been because the views of those delivering speeches would not have been in accordance with what the Greens want everyone to believe.
Dr John Kaye:
Who are they?
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN:
The Australian Environment Foundation is a group that supports sound science in making environmental decisions, not like the many voodoo-logic green non-government organisations that seem to grow, flower, bloom—whatever the word is—in their hundreds, particularly in New South Wales.
The Hon. Rick Colless:
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN:
Germinate. I commend the Australian Environment Foundation for its interest in the wellbeing of the environment, particularly here in New South Wales and in the bush in relation to woody weeds, but that is a subject for another time. One of the key speakers was Dr Chris de Freitas, a climatologist from the University of Auckland, some of whose very interesting views I would like to share. Global warming is a greatly misunderstood and emotionally charged issue. We have seen that recently with the awarding of a Nobel prize for a fictional film.
The Hon. Rick Colless:
It was a peace prize.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN:
Yes, it was a peace prize. Amazing! I do not think we hear enough about the side the Greens do not espouse, that is, that global warming is not necessarily anthropogenic. There is much talk about the Kyoto protocol proposed by the United Nations in 1997 that called for greenhouse gas emission cuts by 5 per cent from 1990 levels by the year 2012. What the Greens do not tell people is that to meet this protocol many of the industrialised nations of the world, including Australia, would have to give up one-third of their energy use—a huge cut. Indeed, the Greens simple solution with a bill like this is to close down the coalmining industry.
The Greens do not say that their view is only one side of the story. A decrease of this magnitude can only be achieved by severe rationing of oil, coal and natural gas—and at what cost to the world, never mind third world countries. Were third world countries to try to meet those protocols, they would regress to the Stone Age. They would not be able to develop. Until I took the time to think about it, like Dr de Freitas, for a time I wanted to accept that increases in man-made additions of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere would trigger changes in water vapour and lead to dangerous climate change. I thought it unlikely that man-made changes are in fact the drivers of significant climate variation, as shocking and as heretical this might seem to Dr Kaye.
As he pointed out to the conference, Dr de Freitas said much has been made of the increase in emissions over the last 50 years. Rarely mentioned is the fact that carbon dioxide's effect on global temperatures is already close to its maximum, that is, adding more has an ever-decreasing effect. This means it is unlikely that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will greatly influence the climate. He points out that re-analysis of the Vostock and Dome ice core shows CO2
increases lagged about 600 years behind temperature increases of the three significant deglaciations. Clearly, high carbon dioxide levels are not the primary cause of temperature rises ending the ice ages. He said that other research on geological timescales shows that sometimes temperatures were high when carbon dioxide levels were low and vice-versa. Significantly, the Antarctic ice cores show the preceding four interglacials were warmer than now yet show lower levels of carbon dioxide.
Given that he is speaking as a scientist and climatologist, what are we really trying to address and what is causing our changing climate? If not man, could it all be as simple as the sun? De Freitas says climate change science is bursting with new findings and mostly to do with the sun—and I notice there are detractors coming out of the woodwork there too—which is virtually the ultimate source of all energy on the planet. He says it is not surprising that solar activity is the main driver of the earth's climate and that some solar scientists are predicting that global cooling—not warming—will start in just over a decade and reach its peak in 2055. That is a contradiction in the predictions that scientists are making. So where does that leave us? We are dealing with natural climate change rather than a man-made climate change, which is what the Greens are so keen to have us believe.
The Hon. Rick Colless:
The ebb and flow of climate change.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN:
That is exactly right. Dr de Freitas says that human influence aside, natural climate change will continue and the proper public policy response is to monitor climate accurately, and respond and adapt to change—both warming and cooling—in the same way that we cope with other natural events such as cyclones, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In conclusion, Dr de Freitas says that the best way of ensuring we cope is to build wealth into the world economy and be receptive to new technologies. One cannot build new technologies without a vibrant economy. In order to retain vibrant economies the world engines must keep running. In New South Wales both the Hon. Rick Colless and the Minister pointed out the economic effect that this bill would have on the State of New South Wales. The Minister also stated that if the Greens were interested in reducing CO2
emissions worldwide, they should champion the expansion of the New South Wales coal industry, not put forward a turn-out-the-lights bill, which is what this bill is. The Shooters Party could not possibly support anything as crazy as this bill.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ
[2.57 p.m.]: The Hon. Ms Hale implies that the New South Wales Government is failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions. I am delighted to be given the opportunity to enlighten this House on the Labor Government's numerous initiatives to minimise New South Wales greenhouse gas emissions, not least because under former Premier Bob Carr New South Wales was the first in the world to introduce a trade emissions scheme. The emissions reduction approach proposed in the Climate Futures Bill 2007 addresses only one industry sector—that is coal-fired power stations—and mandates only one solution: renewable energy. In contrast, the Government's initiatives to minimise New South Wales' greenhouse gas emissions are broadly based, world leading and innovative. These include the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme. New South Wales established the first mandatory greenhouse emission trading schemes in the world in 2003. The Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme provides incentives for existing coal-fired power stations to improve the efficiency of generation through the ability to earn New South Wales greenhouse abatement certificates for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
This scheme changes the economics of generation options and is driving change in the industry. For example, the ability to earn New South Wales greenhouse abatement certificates under the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme was an important consideration in the development of two new gas-fired power stations, one at Lake Munmorah on the Central Coast, and one being built by TRUenergy at Tallawarra, near Wollongong.
The Government's Renewable Energy (New South Wales) Bill 2007 recognises that the further development and promotion of renewable energy requires changes to energy market regulation and governance and investment in research and development. The Government's bill will foster the development of the renewable energy industry by raising the amount of renewable energy in New South Wales from 6 percent to 10 per cent by 2010 and 15 per cent by 2020. This will allow the New South Wales renewable energy industry to scale up to meet the expected increase in demand for zero emissions technologies when national and international emissions trading regimes are established. New South Wales has led the States and Territories in the development of a National Emissions Trading Scheme. I welcome the Coalition Federal Government's very late announcement that it will introduce a national emissions trading scheme. However, I note that, unlike the work done by the State and Territories, there is very little detail in the Commonwealth Coalition scheme.
GreenPower was launched by the New South Wales Government in 1997. It is now a national program. It provides a guarantee to customers that their purchase of a GreenPower product supports the development of new renewable energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New South Wales electricity retailers are required to offer a 10 per cent GreenPower component to all new or moving residential customers. Currently there are more than 500,000 GreenPower customers across Australia.
Measures to reduce electricity demand also reduce greenhouse emissions from electricity generation. For example, the Building Sustainability Index [BASIX] sets targets that buildings must meet to reduce energy consumption in new residential dwellings; the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme provides incentives for activities that increase energy efficiency; the New South Wales Government, together with all other Australian governments under the auspices of the Ministerial Council of Energy, is implementing a national framework for energy efficiency; and New South Wales leads Australia in the introduction of smart meters. Electricity network service providers are actively evaluating the benefits of smart electricity meters to reduce demand at peak times and in this way reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Numerous current initiatives are underway to improve the environmental performance of the coal industry. The initiatives underway to reduce the impact of the mining sector of the coal industry include the capture and use of methane drained from coal seams and mine ventilation air to generate electricity at several New South Wales coal mines, including Appin, Tower and Tahmoor collieries, with several new projects also expected to be commissioned in the near future; the fugitive emissions working group, which is developing measures to improve both the reporting and mitigation of fugitive methane emissions from existing coalmines; the recently released Mining, Petroleum Production And Extractive Industries State Environmental Planning Policy 2007, which requires mining proposals to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and rehabilitate the area in which they operate; and the Government recently announced it will spend $22 million on two pilot, clean coal projects to reduce greenhouse emissions from power stations in New South Wales.
The clean coal projects not only provide a benefit to New South Wales but allow us to export the technology to emerging countries that rely heavily on our coal but do not have the ability of wealthy nations such as ours to find better aims of using cleaner, greener gases. As well as relying so heavily on it, clean coal is such an important element not so much for us but for the communities we export to.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[3.02 p.m.]: I wish to make a few remarks and then to adjourn the debate on this bill until the next sitting day. The Climate Futures Bill 2007 is a very dramatic bill from the Greens' point of view, and obviously it has no hope of being passed by this House. I think we should send a copy of the bill to the Greens leader, Bob Brown, who appeared on television last night. He had been speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, presenting the reasonable man image, saying, "You could trust us. Let us have the balance of power after the election. You know how reasonable the Greens are. We have no extreme policies; we would be a moderate influence." It was a completely new Bob Brown. He must not be aware of the New South Wales Greens party. I will send him a copy of this bill and ask him for his response to it.
If the bill were to be passed, it would prohibit the development of future coalmines in New South Wales, prohibit any development that expands or increases the level of operations of an existing coalmine, prohibit any development that increases the capacity of any coal export terminal or other form of transport infrastructure that is specifically designed and used for the purposes of handling coal, prohibit the establishment of a coal-fired power station, prohibit any development that increases the capacity of an existing coal-fired power station to generate electrical power, and prohibit any development that extends the operational life of an existing coal-fired power station by changing the technology used at the power station. I have taken those words directly from the bill, but it does not stop there. It seeks to close down the Kooragang coal terminal, which, as we know, has been approved—
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Amanda Fazio):
Order! The Dr John Kaye will cease interjecting.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE:
The bill provides that planning approvals will be revoked for the construction of the coal export transport terminal at Newcastle and the establishment of the Anvil Hill coalmine, and so on. It is a very dramatic piece of legislation. I thought I would ask an expert on climate change, Cardinal George Pell, for his opinion. Cardinal Pell issued a statement on the matter, and I thought it was very good. I will read a couple of extracts from it. Cardinal Pell is very critical of the Greens' climate change position. He knows that Australia is only responsible for about 1 per cent of greenhouse gases in the world. Australia is one of the lowest contributors to greenhouse gases of all the developed countries in the world. So we should be proud of what has been achieved in this country. In response to a statement issued by some of the church leaders, which he did not agree to be a party to, Cardinal Pell said:
I think I read somewhere the temperature has gone up 0.5 of a degree on Mars. Well, the industrial-military complex up on Mars can't be blamed for that.
I think we are all clear on the fact that there are no coalmines or industry on Mars. Cardinal Pell voiced deep scepticism, warning that it was impossible to be certain about environmental patterns thousands of years ago. He cast doubt on a CSIRO estimate that temperatures could rise by 3.4 degrees by 2070 if emissions were not cut, accusing the same scientists of contradicting their own research findings from four decades ago. Cardinal Pell also said:
I have studied this a little bit and there's a whole history of differing estimates. Thirty or 40 years ago, actually, some of the same scientists were warning us about the dangers of an ice age
Even a movie was made based on those fears. It showed ice covering the city of New York, and so on. Cardinal Pell went on:
Debate adjourned on motion by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
so I take all these things with a little bit of a grain of salt. They're matters for science and, as a layman, I study the scientific evidence rather than the press releases.