Angry householders and business owners will be knocking on the door of the federal energy minister as prices rise, regardless of who wins government, experts warn.
“We face a kaleidoscope of options from tomorrow’s election,” Carbon Market Institute CEO John Connor told an online forum on Friday.
The election eve “carbon conversation” hosted by the investor institute agreed Australia’s emissions need to peak during the next parliament to achieve net zero by 2050.
While there’s no expectation the targets of the two major parties will change, Mr Connor said the next government would need to swiftly set a 2035 target because international agreements require one.
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In the meantime, energy prices are surging internationally as countries dependent on imports figure out how to replace market pariah Russia as a source.
Within a month, Australian Industry Group expert Tennant Reed expects our spot electricity and gas prices to be back to the peaks of five years ago, which he said will be “incredibly painful” for all states, especially Victoria and Queensland that depend on coal-fired power.
“Whoever takes office and forms government and appoints an energy minister, that minister is going to have a lot of unhappy people and businesses within a month saying ‘Why is my price so high?’,” he said.
“This decade looks expensive for the opponents of electrification but even more so for the proponents of oil and gas.”
A report released this week by researchers at ClimateWorks explains how to “bend the curve” of emissions in each sector to achieve the commitment to capping global warning at 1.5 degrees.
It is time to plan for all transport to be net-zero ready, agriculture emissions must peak in 2025, and other heavy emitters – not just the electricity grid – need to pull their weight, ClimateWorks said.
Grattan Institute climate and energy director Alison Reeve told the CMI forum agriculture is “a hard nut to crack”.
“A good start would be funding and outreach over the next decade so that individual farmers can actually figure out practices on their farms that will help reduce their carbon footprint,” she said.
Neither major party has any intention of re-igniting the climate wars by imposing a mandatory carbon price.
Mr Connor said Australia already has a carbon price, through a voluntary market.
But there are changes coming to a mechanism that governs the actions of more than 200 of the largest emitters.
Energy and industry department officials have already laid the groundwork for whoever wins on Saturday, building on the existing safeguard mechanism.
Labor’s Chris Bowen, if he takes on the mantle from Energy Minister Angus Taylor, wants to make emission reduction requirements more onerous for companies, but only gradually.
“Rather than having the baseline stay fairly static, the emissions are measured against each facility and they would become more and more accountable for their emissions over time,” Mr Reed said.
He said many companies have sensed this change is coming, and are already integrating carbon offsets and carbon credits into their plans.
Energy analyst Bret at research house RepuTex said Australia’s carbon market prices seem to be trending back towards about $30 a tonne, which offers little incentive.