Gillard: moving Australia backwards on climate


Yesterday Julia Gillard announced some of the Labor Party’s climate policies.

Debate amongst the YCAN team has centred on whether these are the worst policies ever, or the second worst.

The Labor Party cannot even pretend to care about climate change now. These policies will see Australia’s emissions continue to rise rapidly while the impacts of climate change keep worsening.

In summary, the policy announcements are:

1. A green light for new coal-fired power stations and existing ones to keep polluting indefinitely

Twelve new coal-fired power stations on the drawing board around Australia have been given the go-ahead. Any new plants beyond these will be subject to “emissions standards”, which will only block brown coal developments, but not black coal.

Further, all new coal plants (the phrase “new coal plants” shouldn’t exist in and of itself as we should not be building any) will need to be “carbon capture and storage ready” – something that is completely meaningless.

Existing polluting infrastructure, such as Hazelwood Power Station remain untouched.

2. More inaction and delay

The “citizens assembly”, due to report in over 12 months is just an excuse for inaction, when urgent action is desperately needed. Community consensus on climate action has existed for years, and scientific consensus has existed well before that. We want action, not more talk!

3. Money from solar energy to go to buying petrol cars

Money will be taken away from the solar infrastructure program to fund rebates for car owners to purchase a new car if their car is older than 1995.

For further information see the Vote Climate website.

And for further analysis, Bernard Keane from Crikey has expressed it well in his piece:

Citizen Gillard abandons basic leadership on climate change

It’s hard to describe just how truly wretched Labor’s new climate change policy is. It makes the CPRS, its dog of an emissions trading scheme, look like a model of best practice. It is a spectacular failure of leadership.

Julia Gillard’s “citizens’ assembly” has effectively outsourced responsibility for climate policy to “ordinary Australians”, on whose “skills, capacity, decency and plain common sense” Gillard will rely to tell her about the community consensus on climate change. In effect it institutionalises what is already apparent — this is a Government controlled by focus group reactions.

Labor has been playing politics with climate change for three years and it hasn’t stopped. But whereas for most of that time it used climate change to damage the Coalition, now it is having to defend itself against the issue. It will only be with the political cover afforded by this nonsensical Assembly that the Government will take any action on a carbon price.

Rarely has so much goodwill and political capital been wasted on such an important issue.

The consensus the Government insists it needs the protection of before acting already exists. It’s not just in the opinion polls, which show time and time again that the majority of voters want action on climate change and supported the Government’s CPRS. In 2007, let’s not forget, both sides of politics told Australians they were going to introduce an ETS. The 2007 election endorsed a community consensus on the need for action.

Instead, in 2010, neither party will commit to any sort of carbon price mechanism for at least three years. Instead, they’re offering excuses as to why they don’t want to take action. We’ve done anything but move forward on climate action.

Gillard’s interim actions are little better. The new emissions standard she proposes won’t even apply to four coal-fired power stations being built or brought back on line currently. They may not apply to two more, the massive Mt Piper and Bayswater projects in NSW, which will together add 4% to national CO2-equivalent emissions when they come on line. Holding the baseline for the CPRS at 2008 levels won’t give electricity generators any more investment certainty when it remains unclear whether there will ever be an emissions trading scheme in Australia. Nor does it change the simple fact that State Governments continue to drive Australia into a coal-fired future.

Labor’s craven pandering to key outer-suburban electorates in its population and asylum seeker policies was bad enough. But abdicating executive responsibility for action on climate change is a new low in cynical politics, beyond the depths even reached by NSW Labor. Politicians are elected to lead. Deferring every controversial issue back to the electorate is a clumsy variant of leadership by polling and focus groups.

So blatant is Labor’s refusal to lead that it raises serious questions about its fitness for government. The only problem is that the alternative is an economically-illiterate party whose leader doesn’t believe in climate change at all, but who insists on wasting $3b on the most expensive possible means of addressing it.

What a choice, two major parties incapable of leadership and unfit to govern.