By Ariane Wilkinson, WWF-Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Program Manager,
Yesterday, the Queensland Premier launched the new Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan, the Sunshine State's new pathway to a “clean, reliable and affordable energy system to provide power for generations.” It was a historic day to be in the room with Torres Strait Island and First Nations Peoples, industry groups, business leaders, unions and colleagues in the conservation sector to hear the Queensland Premier commit to legislating a 70% Renewable Energy Target by the time Queensland hosts the Olympics and Paralympics in 2032 and an 80% Renewable Energy Target by 2035.
The new renewable energy target commitments are anticipated to achieve emission reductions within the Queensland electricity sector of 90% by 2035-36, based on 2005 levels, a significant step forward for action on climate. What this means in practice is that Queensland is committing to end its reliance on polluting coal-fired power plants by 2035. That’s a really important step forward in reducing further climate damage to our iconic places such as the Great Barrier Reef that will continue to occur with continued reliance on fossil fuels.
The Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan commits an additional $4 billion in new funding bringing the total investment from the Queensland Government to $6 billion. New analysis from Acacia Sustainability shows the $6 billion commitment is the single largest commitment of any State or Territory government to decarbonise the electricity sector. WWF-Australia has warmly welcomed the plan as a once in a century investment to make Queensland a global renewable energy superpower.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the day was seeing a broad spectrum of support for the new Plan, including from groups who may traditionally have opposed stronger climate action. The Queensland Resources Council welcomed the plan as an “enormous opportunity”. Queensland unions strongly welcomed the Plan and attended the event to co-sign a new Queensland Energy Workers’ Charter between energy sector unions, the Queensland government and employers. A strong cross-section of leading Queensland stakeholders welcomed the new Plan for the opportunities it creates for Queenslanders as the world moves towards net zero.
WWF-Australia is pleased to have played a role in working with the Queensland Government and stakeholders over the last twelve months to help achieve this outcome. As part of that work we commissioned new research from Accenture, alongside the Queensland Conservation Council and the Australian Conservation Foundation, which found that Queensland could halve emissions this decade and create 87, 000 new clean jobs in new industries if it transitions away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. We’ve also worked closely with our Renewables Nation Business Champions network, experts and colleagues in the conservation movement to encourage the Queensland government to commit to an ambitious energy plan that unlocks Queensland’s potential to be a renewable energy exports superpower.
As we harness these opportunities, there’s still a lot more work to do to make sure the Plan is delivered in a way that’s good for First Nations communities, good for nature and society and urgently addresses the climate crisis. The renewables commitments need to unlock further opportunity for more rapid decarbonisation, to put Queensland on the path to doing our fair share to hold warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It’s vital to consider that technology is changing so quickly that the renewable energy targets and actions committed under this Plan cannot be static. The Queensland Government and the renewables sector must be constantly vigilant to look for new opportunities to decarbonise more quickly and eliminate fossil fuels reliance much earlier than committed to in the Plan.
This Plan could unlock the opportunity to help rapidly decarbonise more than just Queensland's domestic emissions, but most importantly, our exported emissions through coal and gas exports by using our cheap and abundant renewable energy to replace those industries with clean exports. It’s a critical decade for action on climate, and Queensland has the opportunity to shift from being one of the most coal-dependent and polluting jurisdictions to being a leader in climate solutions. The new Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan is a historic pivot to set Queensland on the path for a brighter future.
Ariane Wilkinson is an expert in climate law and policy, and leads WWF-Australia’s Queensland work to help turn Australia into a Renewable Energy Exports Superpower.