Labor pledges to reinstate ARENA funds if elected

Labor has put climate change and renewable energy firmly on its economic agenda in its budget reply, while also re-opening the door to re-instating funds to the Australia Renewable Energy Agency, should it be elected.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten told parliament on Thursday night that a Labor government would budget for “real action” on climate change, and help drive the new jobs and industries that would be created by renewable energy.

“Refusing to act on climate change will leave Australia isolated from the biggest economic opportunity of the next few decades,” Shorten said in his speech.

“Taking real action on climate change will create new jobs, attract new international investment and power our industries and services.

On the subject of future funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – the grant-based renewables support scheme that the Coalition wants to de-fund – the party appears to have had a rethink.

Labor, having helped set up ARENA, this week baulked at continuing to support it, despite the fact that scrapping it would leave no avenue for government funding of the kind of early stage research that is vital to the development of better and cheaper renewable energy technology.

But the party has since clarified that it “will continue to support” ARENA, and was “committed to debt, equity and capital grant funding for the renewable energy sector” as crucial elements of its plan to reach 50 per cent renewable energy generation by 2030.

“ARENA is fully funded for 2016/17 but we recognise that the balance of funds and programs needs further consideration to ensure that we have what is actually required to achieve our targets for the renewable revolution and deliver on the commitments in our Climate Change Action Plan,” said shadow climate spokesman Mark Butler said in a statement.

“On winning government we will sit down with the ARENA board and work through exactly what is required.”

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