Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

Australia’s Coalition government finally agreed to come up with an achievable Renewable Energy Target (RET), but it is not what conservation groups have expected.

The Coalition government and the Labor opposition agreed on a reduced target of 33,000 gigawatt hours. The thing is Tony Abbott proposed burning biomass as a source of renewable energy, which the Greens find to be contentious. Conservation groups say Abbott’s biomass plan will lead to the destruction of native forests.

The Wilderness Society has called on the government to shelve its plan to use native forest woodchips for electricity as a renewable energy source under the RET.

Wilderness Society National Forest Campaign manager Warrick Jordan said that despite Labor’s strong opposition to the plan, the Government has previously suggested it will seek a deal with Senate crossbenchers to classify the burning

“We have written to the Prime Minister today asking him to shelve his plan to include the burning of native forests as a renewable energy,” Jordan said as he challenged Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane to show genuine intention of the Government’s intentions in supporting the renewable industry.

He said, “muddying the waters with an environmentally destructive plan intended to paper over the cracks of a forestry industry in need of deep structural reform does clearly not help the case.”

Jordan believes that while the government has finally ended the impasse over the immediate future of renewable energy in Australia, he said it continues to stoke the fires of controversy by seeking a backdoor route by classing burning native forests as renewable, despite Labor’s opposition.

“If the Government does not drop its plan, the cross-bench Senators will have to seriously interrogate the facts and consequences of the Government’s proposal,” he warned.

“While the Government appears to suggest that including native forests in the RET means burning leaves that come out of a backyard mulcher, in reality the plan would allow open slather on forests to be cut down, woodchipped and burnt as renewable energy. This lesson has already been learned from North America, despite Government and forestry industry assurances to the contrary.”

Friends of the Earth is happy the government has finally come to agree on RET. However, it also said the burning of forests for energy is tragic.

Campaigner Cam Walker said that while the concerns of the renewables sector have been considered, the Coalition’s resistance to taking biomass out of the deal has created a whole new range of problems.

Including biomass in the RET will undermine the uptake of true renewables like wind and solar, and further entrench destructive forestry operations.

He said everyone is glad to see the end of the uncertainty, but cutting the RET to 33,000GWh is still a massive backwards step for Australia.

The renewables industry has been brought to the brink of collapse because of the extreme opinions of key players in the Coalition government and this reduced target will mean fewer jobs and investment in regional Australia, and less action on climate change than the original target, he said.