Ben Eltham in the New Matilda:

The man who will become the chair of the Coalition's proposed business advisory council, Maurice Newman, is perhaps the exemplar of this [climate science denialism] line of thinking. Newman, a wealthy former business executive who once chaired the Australian Stock Exchange, is a well-known climate sceptic. Last year he penned an op-ed in The Australian (where else?) in which he claimed that “we have seen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change discredited” and that “a small but powerful group has captured [the ABC], at least on climate change.”

Now Newman is pushing to abolish Australia's most successful climate policy: the Renewable Energy Target, which mandates that 41,000 gigawatt hours of electricity in the national grid must be sourced from renewables by 2020. Newman is also anti-wind. As Lenore Taylor's reports, he apparently hosted a meeting of the Crookwell District Landscape Guardians – a chapter of the broader Australian Landscape Guardians, an anti-wind pressure group – at his southern highlands property on 18 April.

Newman is quoted as saying that “when we look at the experience of Germany, they have not been successful in reducing emissions; when we look at the science it no longer supports the global warming theory and when we look at the health and economic effects of wind farms and the obscene wealth transfer from poor to rich we have to ask: why are we persisting with them? I think it is a crime against the people.”

Most people don't realise it, but the RET has been far more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than the carbon price so far. It is the RET which has made wind and solar energy competitive at grid prices with brown coal and gas, leading to ongoing drop in fossil fuel emissions from Australia's electricity generators. With the Coalition already committed to rolling back the carbon price, the removal of the RET would remove essentially all price signals in favour of renewable energy in the Australian economy. It would be catastrophic for Australia's renewables sector. Wind investment would almost certainly cease.

In the eastern states, the election of Coalition governments since 2010 has led to widespread policy change that has negatively affected the renewables sector. Solar feed-in tariffs have been wound back, renewable investments have been abandoned, and stringent new regulations have been placed on wind farms. At the same time, these government have moved aggressively to ease planning and regulatory restrictions on fossil fuel industries like coal mining. A Coalition victory in September would most likely lead to similar outcomes. Australia's renewables sector is bracing for turbulent times.

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