The New South Wales government has moved to head off the looming threat of teal candidates running in the Liberal party heartland at the next state election by committing to an ambitious new emissions reduction target of 70% by 2035.
But the government won’t move to legislate the cap, with the state’s treasurer, Matt Kean, saying NSW would beat its current target of halving emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 through its existing policies.
The Liberals have managed to win support for the target from its Coalition partner, the National party, largely through the promise that much-touted renewable energy zones will provide a significant investment in rural parts of the state. On Friday Kean said the new target would attract more than $39bn in private investment and support 13,000 new jobs.
Earlier this year Origin Energy announced it would close the Eraring coal-fired power station seven years early, while AGL’s plant in the state’s upper Hunter, Bayswater, is due to close in 2033.
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Kean insisted the increased target was not a result of these closures. Instead, he pointed to the establishment of renewable energy zones across the state, as well as investments in hydro energy and electric vehicles.
The new target comes just days after the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said the commonwealth would spend $5bn connecting NSW renewable energy zones to the country’s energy grid.
The first of these zones is due to be established in the central-west by 2030, with three others to follow.
“This is the NSW government’s plan to do our bit to safeguard our planet. But importantly, it’s also our plan to safeguard our economy and ensure we create more wealth for the people of this state for generations,” Kean said on Friday.
The treasurer announced the updated target in Manly alongside the environment minister and local MP, James Griffin – who is facing a challenge from a teal candidate, Joeline Hackman – as well as the North Shore MP, Felicity Wilson, and other moderate Liberal party candidates running in Ryde, Coogee and Vaucluse.
The announcement came on the back of a preselection deal – which Kean helped orchestrate – that will see three sitting male upper house MPs ditched in favour of female candidates. Matthew Mason-Cox, Shayne Mallard and Lou Amato will be dumped in favour of state executive member Susan Carter and former school teacher Jean Hayes. Despite not being up for reelection, the families minister, Natasha Maclaren-Jones, will be installed at the top of the ticket.
The cross-factional deal is designed to head off questions about the party’s commitment to increase female representation, with a string of preselections going to male candidates despite public calls from Kean and others for the party faithful to install women.
But Kean denied the moves were about heading off the teal threat.
“This is not about teals,” he said. “This is not about anyone other than the NSW government showing that we have a clear plan to build a stronger, more prosperous economy and ensure that we hand our planet to our kids better than we found it.
“We’ll put our plan up against any other party, any other candidates, any day of the week.”