Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017 | Samantha Dunn

Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017

I rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017...
Friday, October 20, 2017 - 12:30pm
Samantha Dunn

Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — I rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017. My colleague in the other place, the member for Melbourne, has spoken at length as to the merits of this bill. The Greens are delighted that we finally have renewable energy target legislation before this Parliament. It is a necessary mechanism if this state is to do its part in reducing emissions from the emissions-intensive electricity sector. It is worth noting that as of September 2017, the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere was 403.38 parts per million, already over what is the critical 400 parts per million and in fact the safe level of 350 parts per million. It is particularly telling — I know that I should not refer to the gallery — that we just had a primary school come through. When we think about the renewable energy target and climate change and what this is responding to, we do it for those children. We do it for intergenerational equity. If we do not do it —

An honourable member — They will be paying for it for generations.

Ms DUNN — If we do not do it, then those generations ahead of us are set to experience some very dark and dangerous times.

I note that this bill has only come into being due to sustained pressure from community and environmental groups, and I commend their efforts and congratulate them on their legislative success. They have worked long with the Greens to keep the Andrews government honest on making progress on establishing a renewable energy target mechanism. I was delighted this morning to in fact speak to some of those community campaigners, who once again have come out to the steps of Parliament to interact with democracy, as you can do in Victoria, and this time bringing cake with them to celebrate. We as the Greens were delighted to participate in that event.

Considering the short length of this bill, it is a wonder why it took so long, but better late than never. However, this bill needs to be a bit longer to address a potential perverse outcome because of the haste to develop novel energy sources in this state. There is a place for resource recovery through taking biomass and converting it into energy. An example of such a process would be to take agricultural waste and process it through a biodigester to create biogas, which can then be used to power a turbine or boiler. There are many waste streams that can be considered for such processes, including food-processing waste and effluent.

However, the establishment of a waste-to-energy cycle under a renewable energy target cannot be allowed to include biomass from native forests. Victoria's forests store huge amounts of carbon that need to be protected. Logging forests releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases. The destruction of undergrowth, the burning of log coupes and the oxidation of soil carbon lead to major releases of both methane and carbon dioxide. This practice is a major source of greenhouse gases. Using native forest biomass to produce electricity supports an industry that causes massive forest carbon releases. It is not a net carbon sink.

This is important to note in relation to particularly the forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria. Those are the montane forests of our country. They are mainly populated by mountain ash — Eucalyptus regnans, the tallest flowering plant in the world; they are home to the state faunal emblem, the Leadbeater's possum; and they are in fact the most carbon-dense forests in the entire world. It is disturbing that, in terms of the bill before us, there is no specific mention of biomass not being included as a renewable energy source. It is concerning to the Greens that that matter has not been elevated to the level of being included in the bill, and I will talk about that a bit further as part of my contribution.

There have been accusations that Australian Paper, the mill in Maryvale that chips the largest amount of mountain ash trees, feeds those chips into boiler furnaces at its Maryvale pulp mill. This is the most wasteful use imaginable of these beautiful trees. Maryvale has been provided with a grant to build a waste-to-energy incinerator, which will have the potential to use native forest biomass as feedstock. The renewable energy target cannot be an opportunity to expand this destructive form of energy production.

The Greens will therefore move amendments to this bill that will ensure native forest biomass is not included as a renewable energy source, and I would ask, President, if I could, that that amendment be circulated, please.

Greens amendments circulated by Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) pursuant to standing orders.