Climate Change Authority

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Climate change is an ongoing global problem that poses serious threats to all countries, including Australia. Effective policies on climate change are in our national - as well as global - interests: they will assist Australia to make its contribution to global action, in ways that deliver an acceptable balance of domestic environmental, economic and social considerations.

It is a complex policy area, with many competing interests, including between current and future generations. In such circumstances, policy makers will be best served by having access to a range of policy advisers.

The Climate Change Authority was established on 1 July 2012 to provide independent and balanced advice to the Government (and the Parliament) on a legislated work program of climate change issues. It is serviced and assisted by a small but very professional and experienced secretariat.

The Authority comprises nine members, including the Australian Government Chief Scientist. Consistent with its charter, its members have considerable expertise and experience in a number of fields, including climate science, economics, business and public policy.

The Authority met 11 times during 2012-13 and considered various operational and policy matters. Its first major review - of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) - was submitted to the Government in December 2012.

The key recommendation of that review was to retain the large-scale RET target of 41 000 gigawatt hours, as currently legislated. Underpinning its recommendation was the Authority’s firm belief in maintaining a framework of policy stability: private investors (and their financiers) are the main drivers of new renewable energy projects, and maximum policy stability is critical for investor confidence in this area of mostly large and long lasting investments.

During the second half of the year, the Authority commenced work on its Targets and Progress Review, which under current legislation, is required to be submitted to the Government before the end of February 2014. An Issues Paper was released in April 2013 and a draft report is planned for release in October 2013, to be followed by extensive consultations with interested stakeholders. The new Government’s plans to abolish carbon pricing and related emissions trading arrangements mean that the ‘Caps’ part of this report will not be of immediate practical relevance, but the appropriate emissions targets for Australia and its international commitments in regard to Australian emissions, as well as the policies of other countries, are all integral to a proper consideration of alternative policy approaches.

In its work to date, the Authority has made a point of consulting widely on its work, and is grateful to all the industry and community groups, governments and other participants who have provided submissions and feedback, and participated in roundtable discussions and public forums.

Finally, and on behalf of all Authority members, I want to acknowledge the sterling contributions which Anthea Harris and her dedicated and professional team have made to the efforts of the Authority from its beginning. That team really is a resource to be treasured and used in ongoing work on climate change policies in this country.

Bernie Fraser Chair