NEW SOUTH WALES was once a world leader on climate action, but a new Climate Council report shows it is now far behind, spewing more greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere than any other state or territory.
The Climate Council report – Ageing and Unprepared: Energy in New South Wales – examines the state’s ongoing dependence on coal and gas power stations and its tardy transition to renewable energy.
“NSW has an energy system stuck in the dark ages, and as soon as the heatwaves hit, the old coal clunkers have a tendency to fall over like dominoes,” said Climate Councillor and former president of BP Australasia, Greg Bourne.
“NSW has Australia’s largest and oldest coal fleet. It’s risky business to rely on coal power stations which become increasingly unreliable with age. Last year they broke down more than 20 times,” said Bourne.
“From sea level rise affecting coastal towns, to extreme heat in western Sydney and increasing bushfire risk across the state, climate change is a major threat in NSW,” he said.
“NSW once had a vision to protect communities from worsening climate change. It established the world’s first emissions trading scheme in 2003, but dropped it nine years later. The state once had strong targets to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but these were ditched too,” said Bourne.
“States like Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are surging forward, leaving NSW far behind. South Australia is on track to reach 73 percent renewable electricity in less than two years, while across Australia, almost 10,000 new jobs are being created in the renewable energy industry,” he said.
“More than 80 percent of people in NSW want to see more of their electricity coming from clean, reliable renewable energy,” said Bourne.
“Thankfully, many local councils in NSW have taken the lead and recognised the massive potential that renewables have in creating new jobs and driving investment,” said Bourne.
Report Key Findings
- The emissions trading scheme introduced by NSW in 2003 was a world first and over a 10 year period reduced greenhouse gas pollution by an estimated 144 million tonnes. That is around twice as much greenhouse gas pollution as Australia’s entire car fleet produces in a year.
- NSW has Australia’s oldest coal fleet and is home to five operating coal power stations which collectively produced 82 percent of the state’s electricity in 2017.
- NSW is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change with damages from extreme weather events costing the state $3.6 billion per year, with this figure likely to rise in the future.
- The cheapest and fastest way for New South Wales to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution would be to progressively replace its coal power stations with renewable energy, like wind and solar with storage.
“Despite having excellent wind and solar resources, renewable energy in NSW accounts for just 6 percent of the electricity generated, compared to South Australia which has 46 percent,” said Climate Councillor and energy expert, Professor Andrew Stock.
“In the past 12 months, NSW has made progress on renewables and storage technologies, but much more needs to be done if we are going to tackle climate change,” said Professor Stock.
“Whichever party is elected to lead NSW at the upcoming election, it will need to step up,” he said.
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