Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.
Chris Bowen has committed Australia to join efforts to triple global renewable energy capacity. Image by James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS
  • environmental politics

Australia backs COP28 renewables, energy efficiency vow

Dominic Giannini December 3, 2023

Australia has signed on to a pledge at the COP28 climate summit to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen says.

At the annual United Nations meeting on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates, the governments of 118 countries announced they would aim to double energy efficiency and triple renewable energy capacity within six years.

It mirrors a pledge made in September by members of the G20.

“We know that renewables are the cleanest and cheapest form of energy – and that energy efficiency can also help drive down bills and emissions,” Mr Bowen said in a statement.

He noted that other major energy exporting countries – including the United States, Canada and Norway – had also committed to the plan promoted by the summit host.

Delegates from China and India did not back the pledge, which pairs the ramp-up in renewable power with a reduction in fossil fuel use.

Solar panels on a rooftop.
 Australia leads the world in the take up of rooftop solar. Image by Raoul Wegat/AAP PHOTOS 

For emissions to go down around the world, a big international push was needed.

“Australia has the resources and the smarts to help supply the world with clean energy technologies to drive down those emissions while spurring new Australian industry,” Mr Bowen said.

Climate Energy Finance, an independent Australian think tank, said the commitment by the 118 countries – particularly Australia, US, EU, Canada and Japan – was “excellent”.

“Two years ago this would have been seen as next to impossible,” director Tim Buckley said in a statement.

“But with China having transformed the world’s (manufacturing) capability to deliver on decarbonisation, this goal will collectively bend the climate trajectory towards what the science clearly dictates.”

NSW Liberal frontbencher and former state treasurer Matt Kean backed the plan to boost renewable energy investment, labelling the transition “too big an opportunity for us to pass up”.

“This is a great opportunity for NSW to get jobs to drive investment and to deliver cheaper, more reliable energy into our system,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

The market would drive the change and Australia could become a winner from the shift, Mr Kean said. 

He also backed the federal opposition’s plan to consider nuclear energy – despite the government ruling it out as too expensive – but only when the technology was available as countries around the world developed small modular reactors. 

“That technology is a while away,” he conceded.

While Australia needed to be open to all forms of renewable energy, the nation needed to move ahead with proven technology as the nuclear reactors won’t be ready until the end of the next decade, he said. 

Power-generating windmill turbines
 Australia has a target to achieve 82 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Mr Buckley called on Australia “to kick the fossil fuel habit” and leverage its “world-leading abundance of sun and wind”.

“Australia is still a global top three petrostate and exporter of carbon emissions,” he added.

Greenpeace Australia said the commitment by the 118 countries was critical if the world was to have a chance of limiting global temperature rises to within 1.5C.

The domestic National Electricity Market currently has an installed capacity of 64GW.

Mr Bowen and Assistant Minister Jenny McAllister will arrive in Dubai for the summit this week.

with AP and Reuters