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Planet Ark World Environment News Australia's PM Goes Green, Opponents See Red

Date: 25-Sep-07
Country: AUSTRALIA
Author: Rob Taylor

By 2020, John Howard said, 15 percent of Australia's energy
would come from "clean" sources including solar, wind, nuclear
or clean coal, reversing his coalition government's previous
reluctance to lift its renewable energy target from 2 percent.

The promise also dropped "renewable" from the government's
agenda, paving the way for a controversial switch to nuclear
energy, backed by Howard as a greenhouse-friendly alternative.

"It will drive additional investment in renewable energy
and other low-emissions electricity generation. This will
reduce costs for business, and ultimately for households,"
Howard said, promising to roll state and national schemes into
one.

But environment group Greenpeace said the target only
streamlined existing state-based schemes, leaving sunny
Australia lagging behind renewable energy leaders such as
Germany and Spain, which are harnessing solar and wind power.

"The coalition's clean energy target is a missed
opportunity to drive the growth of Australia's renewable energy
industry and cut greenhouse pollution," Greenpeace energy
campaigner Mark Wakeham said.

Howard, 68, is expected to call a national election within
weeks and is polling well behind the opposition Labor Party,
whose leader Kevin Rudd has pledged to sign the Kyoto Protocol
capping greenhouse gas emissions in 35 developed nations.

A long-running drought in much of Australia and warnings by
international scientists about the impact of global warming
have spooked voters and elevated climate change to an
election-turning issue.

A Galaxy poll on Monday had Labor 12 points in front of the
government, 56 to 44, which would hand a landslide election
victory to the youthful Rudd.

Rudd, who is this week tipped to unveil a renewable energy
target of 20 percent, also won backing at the weekend from
former US vice-president and climate change campaigner Al
Gore.

To win over voters Howard has promised a carbon emissions
trading system, banned incandescent light bulbs and pledged
A$200 million (US$173 million) to combat forest clearing in Asia.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne said Howard's
clean target of 30,000 gigawatt hours each year did not add up
and was just 9 percent of demand projected by the government's
official commodities forecaster to reach 342,000 GWh in 2019.

"Around the world, the renewable energy industry is
booming. In Australia, where we have tremendous resources and
world-leading researchers, our industry is stalling," Milne
said.
(US$1=A$1.15)

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