Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Climate policies of the major parties in 2016

Climate policy is one of the areas where there are very substantial differences between the major parties.
Many people concerned about Australia’s inadequate climate policy hoped that the change of Prime Minister would lead to a more effective climate policy.  However,  the Liberal and National sceptics are still controlling the Government’s climate policy with the aim of doing as little as possible to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions while claiming that the Government is taking the matter seriously.
A couple of events illustrate what a problem this is for Turnbull, the man who apparently still believes that climate change is a major concern which needs to be addressed.  Statements in April from two senior Coalition Ministers – Attorney-General George Brandis (Liberal Party) and Nationals Deputy Senator Fiona Nash highlight the division in the Government over this area.  Both claimed that the science on climate change was not yet settled.   And a NSW State Liberal Council meeting in early March  passed a resolution calling  on the federal government to “arrange and hold public debates/discussions” between scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and “independent scientists” (presumably climate sceptics).  More than 70% of the delegates apparently supported this motion.  This indicates a high level of climate scepticism amongst NSW Liberals.
A further illustration of lack of interest in or commitment to the climate issue may be seen in a recent National Party booklet -   Protecting and improving our environment - available in the Page electorate.  This discusses the party’s policy in a variety of environmental areas but makes no mention of climate change or its impacts.  Surely one of the greatest environmental and economic threats to our nation should have been worthy of a mention!  Obviously Fiona Nash is not the only National who does not believe climate science is “settled”.
It is no wonder that the Coalition’s policy on climate change is so weak given the division in their parties over the issue.  The Coalition has committed to a target of a 26-28% reduction relative to 2005 levels by 2030.  They claim these reductions are to be achieved through their “Direct Action” policy which involves auctioning emissions reduction projects to the cheapest corporate bidder.  It’s a scheme involving paying polluters - from taxpayer funds - to limit pollution.  And these polluters are industries which have already had many years to clean up their acts.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt claims that the Government’s targets for 2020 will be achieved but does not acknowledge that this will only happen because of surplus credits Australia still has for land clearance. “Direct Action” alone will not do it.
The Labor Party presents a united front on the need for strong climate action and has a much stronger policy for addressing climate threats.  It has pledged reductions of 45% over the same time frame.  It intends to achieve the reductions through an emissions trading scheme and also has plans for a significant boost to the development of renewable energy, a sector which contracted during the Abbott prime ministership.
The Climate Change Authority believes that large reductions are necessary, recommending cuts of 40%-60% by 2030 relative to 2000 levels.  So Labor’s target is more in line with their recommendations than is the Coalition’s target.
The climate issue has not been a major one during the election campaign.  Understandably the Coalition wants to focus on what it believes are its strengths – and climate change policy certainly is not a strength because of party division and the weak policy Turnbull inherited from Abbott. 
Labor has endeavoured to raise the climate change profile in the campaign with its policy.  Predictably the launch of its proposal for an emissions trading scheme saw a Liberal scare campaign about Labor’s climate policy which has been debunked by The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor[1].  She concludes her article with: “And the barren, stupid climate wars and dumb fact-free scare campaigns are a guaranteed recipe for a terrible economic and environmental failure.”
While there might not be much stomach for effective climate action in the Coalition parties, a recent survey has found that the concern about climate is more widespread in the community than it was five years ago.  Deborah Cotton[2]  from the Sydney University of Technology found that 75% of people believe it is an important global issue and that 57% of respondents want Australia to act on climate change irrespective of whether other countries do or not.
“Inter-generational theft” was a term used by the Coalition during the first year or two of its current term.  They used it in connection with budget deficits.  We do not hear this term now that the Coalition itself has increased the budget deficit substantially.  However, “intergenerational theft” could be applied to what will be happening to future generations as a result of weak responses to the climate emergency. The impact of our lack of action now will place an intolerable burden on future generations.
If the Coalition is returned to Government, there will be a need for a vigorous campaign to force it to adopt much stronger measures to cut our emissions and do our share in the global effort to restrict the extent of global warming. The big question is whether Malcolm Turnbull will have the courage to stand up to the dinosaurs in his party and to act in the national interest and the interests of future generations of Australians.
Northern Rivers
28th June 2016


GuestSpeak is a feature of North Coast Voices allowing Northern Rivers residents to make satirical or serious comment on issues that concern them. Posts of 250-300 words or less can be submitted to ncvguestspeak AT for consideration. Longer posts will be considered on topical subjects.

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