The Gillard government should move ahead immediately with energy efficiency policies which cut household and business costs while reducing our impact on the climate, the Australian Greens said today.

The recommendations of the Energy Efficiency Task Group, outlined in this morning’s papers, appear to be largely in line with Greens policies, although not as ambitious. They include a national energy efficiency target scheme, removal of the Fringe Benefits Tax Concession which rewards driving longer distances and a form of efficiency standard for light vehicles.

“Energy efficiency is such a no-brainer that it is baffling that successive governments have allowed Australia to fall so far behind the world. It’s time to catch up,” Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

“I will be encouraging Minister Combet to act on the recommendations of this report as fast as possible whilst continuing progress towards a carbon price.

“Certainly a carbon price will help drive energy efficiency, but there is absolutely no reason to delay our efforts to increase efficiency while we work out the mechanism for pricing pollution.

“In fact, getting started with efficiency measures will show the community how much we can all save on our energy bills with a bit of effort and smooth the path to a carbon price.

“The Greens have proposed an energy efficiency target scheme to run in parallel to the renewable energy target scheme as an efficient and effective way to help householders and businesses find ways to save on their energy bills and we’re pleased to see a similar recommendation in this report.

“However, it would be a huge missed opportunity if that target were set at such a weak level that our energy demand kept rising. With a little ambition, we can actually turn around Australia’s sky-rocketing energy demand and start to use less energy to do more.

“Removing the FBT concession that encourages people to drive more is something the Greens and others have been calling for for many years, and was also recommended in the Henry Tax Review. It should be first cab off the rank in Treasurer Swan’s next Budget.

“We will be keeping a close watch on the recommendations for emissions standards for vehicles and the government fleet. These need to be ambitious enough to drive real change, instead of just keeping pace with business-as-usual improvements that the industry is already achieving.

“The Greens have always said governments should help people reduce the amount they have to drive, by investing in public transport and cycleways, and reduce the impact of driving when they have to use the car. We should really be aiming for electrification of the entire fleet, powered by renewable energy, over time.

“Energy efficiency is a way to make Australia’s manufacturing sector more competitive, not less. Not striving for high enough standards shuts us out of European and Chinese markets.

“The government should not be playing down this report – it should get out and sell the message that we can reduce our climate impact while saving money on our energy bills.”

Source: AuSES.

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