Ken Morrison

The Property Council of Australia has urged support for the Renewable Energy Target, under threat from the federal government. Chief executive Ken Morrison said on Wednesday that “100 per cent” of institutional owners and mid-tier owners wanted to see the RET retained.

Members were “really concerned”, Mr Morrison told The Fifth Estate. “Here is a lever that works and they thought they had bi-partisan support.

“The industry has laid out plans to further increase its spending on renewable energy, but that investment can’t proceed without the support of the RET.”

The unequivocal statement of support for the RET joins with similar nationwide calls for the federal government to cease its destructive attacks on renewables that have caused widescale damage to investment in the sector and loss of jobs.

The news comes as the Palmer United Party said it would side with Labor to block the federal government’s determination to slice the RET by nearly half.

At the same time on Wednesday Bloomberg carried a report that said the United States and China had agreed to work together to radically ramp up their climate action.

The US said it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 per cent and 28 per cent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

“That’s a sharp increase from earlier in Obama’s presidency, when he pledged to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020,” Bloomberg said.

China, did not commit to cut emissions by a specific amount.

“Rather, [President Xi Jinping] set a target for China’s emission to peak by 2030, or earlier if possible. He also pledged to increase the share of energy that China will derive from sources other than fossil fuels.”

Mr Morrison said that in Australia renewable energy was a proven winner and needed to be supported.

“Installed capacity of small scale schemes has increased ninefold in commercial properties from 2010 to 2013,” he said.

“If the small scale scheme was discontinued many projects would continue but the rate of change would be slower.

“There is a lot of good will and desire to invest in renewable energy but the investment parameters need to stack up as well.”

The industry would also like to see the small scale scheme, scheduled to end in 2016, extended.

The industry was looking for a “positive decision around the continuation of the scheme,” Mr Morrison said.

“It’s very committed to renewable energy and there is a lot that can be done without incentives but there is a need for incentives to drive real action.

“All the major players are looking at it and the mid-tier as well. The RET has been a powerful lever.

“Today’s announcement that the major parties can’t reach a consensus on this issue has a direct impact on major Australian businesses trying to lay plans for the future.

“We urge all sides of politics to support the continuation of the RET as it currently stands to enable the property industry and other sectors to move forward with certainty,” Mr Morrison said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor had “tried its best” to be bipartisan but it became clear Tony Abbott was not supportive of renewable energy and did not want to negotiate.

“Let’s not waste the time of investors; let’s not give false hope to people. This is a political issue now,” Mr Shorten said.

Australian Solar Council chief executive John Grimes said Labor risked breaking its own election commitment if it had helped the government water down the RET.

No deal is better than a bad deal,” Mr Grimes told reporters in Canberra.

“What this means is that we move from a negotiating position to a campaigning position,” he said, and vowed to defeat the government on environmental policy.

The Climate Institute said the new “climate policy chaos” would embarrass Australia on the world stage as it prepares to host the G20 in Brisbane this weekend.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said today’s comments by the Labor Party that talks on the future of the RET had broken down would leave the jobs of 21,000 workers hanging in the balance.

“The federal government’s proposal to slash the RET is a clear broken promise that would result in a reduction of the future target by more than 60 per cent, decimating the renewable energy industry and risking the $10 billion worth of investment already made in good faith under the policy,” Mr Thornton said.

“If the government’s proposal to slash the legislated target by over 60 per cent is adopted, it’s worse than no deal at all.

“The renewable energy sector is completely frozen until this can be resolved. The RET review started at the beginning of the year, and every week that goes by puts more of the 21,000 direct jobs in the renewable energy industry at greater risk.”

Mr Thornton said Australia was effectively “closed for business” as far as renewable energy was concerned.

He said wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince Engineering last month said it would lay off 100 staff as orders had dried up.