New Australian PM makes climate pledge

17 June 2022

Australia has formally pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government will support a transition to renewable energy, but members of the shadow cabinet are signalling a willingness to include nuclear in the energy debate and a recent poll has found widespread public support.

Albanese signs Australia's NDC (Image: @AldoMP)

On 16 June, Albanese and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen conveyed Australia's updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement to the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This formalises Australia's pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will put it on track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the government said.

Updating Australia's 2030 emissions reduction target honours an election promise, Albanese said. "The new target reflects my government's resolve to urgently step up the pace of action, and work alongside global partners … to tackle the climate crisis and keep 1.5 degrees within reach," he said. "When Parliament resumes, we will move quickly to enshrine Australia's 2030 and 2050 targets in legislation, providing the certainty industry and investors have been seeking. Our Powering Australia plan will support the transition to renewable energy, including investing in the transmission and storage needed to balance the grid."

Albanese became prime minister last month after leading the Australian Labor Party to election victory, ousting the Liberal/National coalition government led by Scott Morrison.

In the days following Albanese's swearing-in, the new leader of the Australian opposition, Peter Dutton, said in a radio interview that he is "not afraid of having a discussion" on nuclear. "If we want to have legitimate emission reductions, if we want to lower electricity prices, then that's exactly the path that President Macron has embarked on in France. That's what Prime Minister Johnson is talking about in the United Kingdom".

David Littleproud, the newly elected leader of the Nationals party - the junior partner in the opposition coalition - has also called for Australia to consider nuclear energy. "I've written to the Prime Minister asking him to consider nuclear power as part of our energy mix," he tweeted earlier this month. "Can we make it safe, affordable and reliable in Australia? We need to have this conversation and if opportunities exist - back ourselves."

Dutton has appointed as shadow minister for climate change and energy Ted O'Brien, who has previously said that Australia should consider nuclear as part of its energy mix. O'Brien was the chair of a parliamentary committee that in 2019 recommended the government consider a partial lifting of the current moratorium on nuclear energy for new and emerging technologies such as small modular reactors.

Growing support

A recent poll found that a majority of Australians support building nuclear power plants in Australia. The poll of 1000 Australians was commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) - which describes itself as a "free market think-tank" - and took place in April. The results were published on 8 June.

Responding to the statement "Australia should build nuclear power plants to supply electricity and reduce carbon emissions", 53% of respondents agreed, 24% neither agreed nor disagreed, and 23% disagreed.

The poll also found widespread support for nuclear across political parties, with more agreeing than disagreeing that Australia should build nuclear for each party grouping including amongst Green voters where 44% said they support building nuclear plants and 30% opposed. It also found more people in support than opposing nuclear across all age groups and income groups.

Albanese and Dutton "should come together and show leadership to repeal the ban on nuclear power in Australia, which can provide low-cost and reliable base-load power," IPA Director of Research Daniel Wild said. "The current energy crisis in Australia is a design feature of a net zero emissions by 2050 target, that will only be solved by reliable, affordable baseload power from coal and nuclear.

“We need to have a proper debate about nuclear power and the cost of net zero to Australians living in the suburbs and regions in terms of their livelihoods, cost of living, and the long-term future of their local communities."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News