Australia’s Parliament passed a law Thursday that set the country’s renewable energy goals for the next 11 years: the country must draw 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources (for example, sun and wind) by 2020. Reaching the 20 percent goal would allow Australia to provide enough clean energy to power all 21 million Australians’ households, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Currently, Australia derives just 8 percent of its energy from renewable sources. The 20 percent target is quadruple that of the country’s 2001 target. It is also the same percentage already established by the European Union (in 2007) – the world’s green power technology leader.
The Senate and House of Representatives were able to pass the bill after reaching the following deal with the main opposition party: the government will provide greater assistance to heavy electricity-using industries and create safeguards for existing coal mining industry investment. This deal was met with criticism by some: the minor opposition party maintained that it gave heavy-hitting polluters too much support and that the target should be higher (30 percent). Other critics’ feared that the deal will cost households and small businesses; reaching the target will not curb CO2 emissions; and reaching the goal will deprive Australia of profits from its plentiful coal resources. (Even if Australia does reach its goal, its CO2 emissions will still be 20 percent higher than its 2000 levels.)
Supporters of the law, including Australia’s leading environmental group (the Australian Conservation Foundation), heralded it as the first major piece of climate legislation to pass Parliament. Proponents believe the target could draw in as much as 31 billion Australian dollars ($26 billion) in clean energy investment while creating some 26,000 jobs.