Carbon-neutral NSW by 2020

09 May 2008Archived News Energetics in the News

Published: Sydney Morning Herald - by Ben Cubby, Cheryl Bowler, Principal Consultant; Carbon Markets, Energetics Pty Ltd comments on the increase of Green power and quality offsets.


All NSW Government operations, including state-run schools, hospitals and police stations, will be made carbon neutral in less than 12 years, the Premier, Morris Iemma, said yesterday.

The move will lead to major changes in hundred of state-run agencies, as they struggle to make drastic cuts to energy use by 2020, a decade after the Federal Government’s national emissions-trading scheme comes into play.

The reform, the centerpiece of the state’s sustainability plan, will aim to curb government greenhouse gas emissions by 300,000 tonnes over the next decade, slashing the state’s total emissions by 4.4 per cent.

But most of the savings will have to be made through the purchase of carbon offsets, and the plan will place the State Government in a dominant position in the local offsets market, competing with businesses to buy green credit. “We know that taking early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also makes good economic sense,” Mr Iemma said.

Apart from buying offsets, the Government will cut energy use from buildings to 2000 levels by 2020, require government-used buildings to achieve a minimum 4.5-star green rating by 2011, and purchase products and appliances with a minimum four-star green rating.

The changes will site alongside previously announced commitments to purchase 6 per cent accredited green power and use vehicles with ethanol-blended fuel where available. Water use will be cut by 15 per cent and 85 per cent of office paper would have to contain recycled content, up from half today.

The task of achieving carbon-neutral status will be made far easier if the Government proceeds with plans to sell the state’s pollution-heavy electricity generators, which it intends to do. The Environment Minister, Verity Firth, admitted the 2020 target was “aspirational, but we really believe that we’re going to do it”.

Previous energy savings targets have faltered after agencies stopped reporting data. Among them was the Government Energy Management Policy, launched in 1998. But this time it would be different, Ms Firth said.

“The departments are going to be reporting annually to me, and the smart department heads will be looking at ways to significantly reduce-energy use to avoid the costs under a [carbon trading] scheme,” she said. “What’s different is that this is a very realistic and long-term target.”

The NSW Opposition said the plan was unworkable because when a national emissions-trading scheme started in 2010, the Government would be vulnerable to paying high carbon costs. “They should have been aiming to get all this done before a scheme comes into place, because the [emissions trading scheme] will force it on them well before 2020,” the Opposition’s environment spokeswoman, Pru Goward, said.

With the Government planning to meet most of the goals of its carbon strategy by buying offsets, some energy experts said the plan could drive up the price of carbon credits. “ There are real problems in saying, “We are going to go carbon neutral’ – unless you can really drive your own emissions down first,” said Iain MacGill, of the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the University of NSW.

Cheryl Bowler, of the energy group Energetics, said: “Green power has already been pushed to record levels, and good quality offsets are going to get increasingly rare under an [emissions trading scheme] so it will be interesting to see what effect the State Government will have.”

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