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Eraring extension ‘undermines’ new net-zero bill

As it works to delay the closure of a major coal-fired power station, the NSW government will put the state's net-zero target into law.

As it works to delay the closure of a major coal-fired power station, the NSW government will put the state's net-zero target into law. Photo: AAP

NSW has been warned it cannot prop up Australia’s largest coal-fired power station without seriously undermining its latest step to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Minns government will on Thursday introduce a bill to set in stone the state’s 2050 net-zero emissions target.

The proposal would also set an interim target to halve 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and set up a commission to annually review and report on the government’s progress.

Victoria and the ACT have legislated net-zero targets while hydro-powered Tasmania has achieved net-zero emissions repeatedly in recent years.

While the Nature Conservation Council of NSW welcomed the legislated targets, it raised concern about achieving those while the government extended the use of fossil fuels.

The government is negotiating an extension to the life of the Eraring coal-fired power station past August 2025 to help deal with potential shortfalls in electricity supply.

It has said the extension would not be a day longer than needed but “keeping the lights on” was essential.

“The Minns government can’t prop up the largest coal plant in the country without seriously undermining its climate agenda,” NCC chief executive Jacqui Mumford said.

Eraring Power Station

The Eraring Power Station has been the subject of protests by climate activists.

“The science is very clear on what needs to happen to meet this responsibility – we need to reduce emissions across every sector of the economy.

“That means new fossil fuel projects such as Angus Place West coal mine or the coal seam gas in the Pilliga-Biliga cannot go ahead.”

The Greens warned net zero by 2050 didn’t go far enough.

MP Sue Higginson said her party welcomed the legislation but the target would breach Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement and was not in line with the cuts needed to stop dangerous global warming.

The legislated target comes after nearly $2 billion in funds were committed in the September budget to help the state transition to a grid powered by renewable energy.

The laws also include a departmental restructure to move water, environment, climate change and energy under one roof.

“These laws are a down payment on securing the future for the people of NSW,” Energy Minister Penny Sharpe said.

“Climate change is already costing NSW through more frequent and more extreme weather events, droughts, floods and other disasters.”

Ms Sharpe said legislating 2030 and 2050 targets and creating an independent Net Zero Commission fulfilled a commitment to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue the shift to renewable energy.

– AAP

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