With all the talk about renewable energy around this week you’d get the feeling that there might be a bit of a revolution underway.
The NSW Government tells us this week it wants the renewable energy industry to take off. But given what is being put in place one wonders if there might just be a bit of spin going on. Think of the same government’s exceptionally tough guidelines on windfarm development (far in excess of the restrictions on any other industry in NSW and greater than the restrictions in any other country). Also their colleagues in the Federal Government have a climate sceptic reviewing our very moderate Renewable Energy Target which has stalled investment in renewable projects country wide.
As fast as the industry is taking off internationally we’re being told that we have to slow it down in Australia to protect our old style coal fired power industry. The industry tells is that while there’s a boom in renewable investment internationally and Australia is missing out.
Employment in the renewable sector in the US now surpasses jobs held in the coal industry. US Corporations are bragging about the economic benefits of setting renewable energy targets and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
US corporate leaders such as Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, General Electric, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Sprint, and Walmart have all set targets which are helping not hindering their bottom line.
In contrast Australia’s power and mining businesses have led the campaign to get rid of caps and pricing on carbon pollution and to halt the conversion to renewable energy. US The top 100 US corporations have registered savings of around $1.1 billion by implementing emission reductions and renewable energy initiatives. In 2012 alone, these companies decreased their annual emissions by approximately 58.3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent – comparable to retiring about 15 coal plants and saving them an average of $19 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (mtCO2e).
In just two examples, IBM has saved a cumulative $477 million through its annual energy conservation actions. Walmart expects to save $1 billion globally.
Leading companies such as Apple, Procter and Gamble, and Walmart have long-term commitments to be 100% powered by renewable energy. Cisco is one of a few that have set a science-based target to reduce absolute emissions 40 percent by 2017. This is the emissions reduction required across the board if we are to hold temperature increases to the vital 2 degree threshold to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Two-thirds of US companies are taking some action on climate change.
The leading US companies demonstrate the value of clean energy and are raising expectations that other companies and countries will do the same. Those not adopting the practices of the leading companies are forgoing substantial opportunities to save money and minimize their environmental footprint.
Tracey Carpenter is President of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network.