Beazley made a raft of climate change-related election promises during the policy announcement at the Great Barrier Reef yesterday, including a Labor commitment to the principles of the Kyoto Protocol.
Significantly, Beazley's emissions reduction promise calls a 60% reduction of emissions compared to 2000 levels, although he claimed that Labor would also be able to deliver significant economic growth if elected.
Beazley said Labor would ensure Australia seizes the economic benefits of sustainable industry, through the development of carbon-friendly technologies and emissions trading, citing the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative's Working Capital report, which claims sustainability will become a global industry worth $US2 trillion a year by 2012.
Beazley's sustainability platform included an increase and extension of the Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets, which renewables supporters and developers claim are necessary to keep investment in Australia.
Other key areas include the development of commercial solar, wind and geothermal energy technologies by Australian research – including a commitment to "rebuild the CSIRO" – and the establishment of a National Sustainability Council to monitor the performance of the entire country against agreed sustainability targets.
Individual voters were not left behind in Beazley's climate campaign, with Labor promising "top-up" funding through the First Home Owners Grant to improve the energy ratings of the home (ultimately resulting in lower water and energy costs to the consumer) and suggesting utilities pay the costs of installing solar water heating systems for suitable homes, with the consumer able to pay it off through the electricity bill.
Clean coal technology was high on Beazley's priorities for energy reform, but he also said he intended Australian solar technology to become an industry as big and significant to the Australian economy as coal is today.
The Opposition leader flatly stated a Beazley Labor Government would not pursue nuclear power in Australia.
"The economics of nuclear power simply don't stack up here," Beazley said yesterday.
"We have significant gas, coal and renewable energy reserves and do not have a solution for the disposal of low level nuclear waste, let alone waste from nuclear power stations.
"Developing nuclear power now would have ramifications for Australia's security. Such a move could result in our regional neighbours fearing we will use it militarily."
Beazley said the prime minister's refusal to rule out nuclear energy made it clear that "if John Howard wins the next election he will bring nuclear power to Australia".
Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell pre-empted the Labor policy announcement on Monday, noting the Liberal Government's commitment to clean coal technologies – as evidenced by the AP6 agreement between Australia, India, China, the US, Japan and South Korea – had previously been dismissed by Beazley as: "It's spin, it's nothing."
Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry said he was glad to hear Labor expand upon its previous commitments to tackling climate change, but said the 60% emissions reduction target – in line with commitments from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has not ruled out nuclear energy – required interim targets to be set.
"The long range target of 60% emissions cuts by 2050 should be complemented by a medium range target of 20% cuts by 2020," Henry said.
"It is essential we do the hard yards of stabilising greenhouse pollution early and not wait to make those deep cuts."
Henry called for a bipartisan approach to climate change issues, saying the Federal Government had already made some useful steps.
"The missing link has been the setting of strong targets and price signals to drive investment in cleaner technologies. This issue is so important it demands bipartisan commitment," Henry said.
"We urge the Federal Government not to delay significant action on cutting emissions and setting strong targets to encourage the growth of renewable energy."