Planners call for commitment to reducing carbon emissions

Australian infrastructure currently at risk of sea level rise is valued at more than $226 billion

The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) has expressed concerns around the lack of government commitment towards reducing Australia's carbon emissions by 2030.

Brendan Nelson, PIA national president, said the Australian Government is not acting with sufficient urgency to demonstrate Australia’s commitment to sustainability.

"Nineteen countries including the USA, Russia, Korea, Canada and our neighbours in New Zealand have already submitted the targets they will adopt from 2020 onwards," he said.

The Institute is calling on the government to act on emission-reducing initiatives, including a reduced reliance on fossil fuels and an accelerated adoption of renewable energy technologies comparable to the efforts of other countries.

"It’s time for the Australian Government to finalise our targets, recognising the clear and unequivocal evidence of the link between carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change," added Nelson.

"Planners…are working to ensure that the impacts of climate change are addressed in our cities and towns. Climate change poses significant challenges to our communities, economy and ecosystems.”

Following the recent frequency of natural disasters in Australia, the Australian Academy of Science found that infrastructure in Australia currently at risk from sea level rise alone is valued at more than $226 billion.

"We are concerned that inadequate action on climate change will leave our cities and regions inadequately prepared for the changes brought about by extreme weather events, and the impact this will have on future generations," said Nelson.

"We urge the government not to leave Australia lagging behind, and instead to adopt an ambitious emissions reduction target well in advance of the Paris COP21 [Sustainable Innovation Forum] in November 2015."

The plea comes following the Abbott government's latest cutting of financing toward renewable energies such as wind farms and household solar power programs.

The government's Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently announced its five priorities for new investment, which will integrate renewables and grids, renewables for use in industrial process, off-grid areas, fringe of grid and constrained sections of the grid, and large scale solar photovoltaics (PV).

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the priorities were where ARENA investment can have the greatest impact right now, and represented current market imperatives or opportunities.

“To date, ARENA has invested $1.1 billion in 230 renewable energy projects across the innovation chain, with each funding dollar leveraging close to two dollars of funding from other sources – these targeted priorities will allow us to build on our existing portfolio, creating the conditions that will accelerate change," Mr Frischknecht said.

“While ARENA will be actively pursuing these priorities, we will also continue to fund high merit projects in a further 12 areas as outlined in the Investment Plan.”

Mr Frischknecht said ARENA was also streamlining its program structure, making it simpler to apply for funding and cutting red tape.

“From 1 August we will transition to two funding programs – the existing Research and Development (R&D) Program and a new Advancing Renewables Program, which will replace all other existing programs,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“We will continue to run R&D funding rounds and will also announce targeted funding rounds through the Advancing Renewables Program, which is open to high merit applications at any time."

The agency has recently proposed a new large-scale solar auction for approximately 200MW worth of projects in September, with plans to offer financial support of between $80-100 million.