Tag Archives: policy

Origin Energy attacks renewables

Origin Energy CEO Grant King is a big supporter of fossil fuels and uses his company’s wealth to lobby government to water down support for renewable energy.

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) is arguably Australia’s most effective emissions reduction policy (far more so than the carbon price). Combined with a drop in electricity demand since 2009, the construction of wind and solar power has helped drop the price of wholesale electricity, which has forced the closure of around 3000MW of coal power in recent months.

The RET is a fixed electricity generation target for the year 2020. Due to falling demand for electricity, what was originally aiming for 20% of electricity production by 2020 has now risen to around 22-25% by 2020.  This of course is great news, but not for the companies that own gas and coal mines and power stations, as renewable energy is out-competing them and they are losing profits.

The RET is now being reviewed by the Climate Change Authority with a preliminary report released today. Origin Energy and Energy Australia (formerly TRUenergy) have been running a campaign to get the RET reduced or scrapped. In a submission to the Climate Change Authority, Origin Energy used dubious figures to claim that the RET was costing consumers large amounts of money. What they really care about of course is their own profits, not the costs for consumers, which renewable energy will help reduce in the medium and long terms.

Origin Energy spends a lot of time greenwashing themselves, running advertisements presenting the company as a supporter of GreenPower and electric vehicles. The truth is that they are doing their best to thwart a transition to a clean energy future.

Considering the urgency of the climate crisis, and the potential that we have already crossed tipping points into runaway climate change (such as the record Arctic sea ice melt this year), it is obscene for companies to be lobbying against renewable energy, and asking for the RET to be reduced. In truth, it should be at least doubled for 2020 with a 100% renewable energy target in place for some time in the 2020s.

We urge all Origin Energy customers to switch retailers and make sure you tell them why when you do. You can also sign this petition which will go to the Origin Energy annual general meeting on 12 November.


The Federal Liberal Party unveils its climate and renewable energy policies

The Federal Liberal Party has finally updated its website to include its policies for stopping the climate crisis and for the development of renewable energy. It is refreshing to see a political party dispense with the spin and fanfare around a policy and just provide the public with the fundamentals of what they plan to do to solve this massive problem.

We’ve taken screenshots of their website so you can see for yourselves 🙂

Carbon price policy announced today – here’s a summary

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Let’s be clear, the carbon price policy announced today is not science-based or visionary and won’t achieve that much. However, it can genuinely be described as a small step in the right direction. If Australia is to do its bit towards achieving a safe climate future – a lot more needs to happen. Our hard work campaigning has gotten us this far, but now is not the time to be resting on our laurels.

Written below is not an exhaustive list of what the carbon price policies entail, rather a summary of the most important points as we see them.


Summary of policy package

  • $23 a tonne starting price (1 July 2012) rising by 2.5% per annum before an emissions trading scheme starts on 1 July 2015.
  • Compensation through the tax and welfare system means most people will be better off or fully compensated for any increases in costs.
  • Emissions reduction targets of 5% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 on 2000 levels.
  • Stationary energy (electricity generation and gas/oil processing), industrial processes, fugitive emissions and emissions from non-legacy (new) waste are covered by the scheme.
  • Agriculture is not covered, most transport is not covered.
  • $9.2 billion in industry compensation mainly for trade exposed industries, steel, coal and gas – reducing slowly over time.
  • Creation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest $2 billion a year for five years in “clean” energy – with at least 50% of that money to go to renewable energy. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS – “clean” coal) is not included as “clean” energy.
  • Creation of an independent Climate Change Authority, which will advise the Government on emissions targets and report annually.


Is it better than the CPRS?

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) put forward by Kevin Rudd after negotiations with the Malcolm Turnbull-led Coalition in 2008 was worse than nothing. There are a number of key differences with this package that make this package better:

  • For the first three years of the scheme it will be impossible for polluters to buy dodgy overseas offsets rather than pay for their pollution. When the emissions trading scheme starts in 2015 it will limit overseas offsets to 50% of the carbon liability. The CPRS had no limit.
  • Some of the coal “compensation” is conditional on the closure of 2000MW of coal-fired electricity by 2020. This means that it is likely that Hazelwood will be closed within this time (we need to make sure it is sooner rather than later!). The CPRS had no such conditions and only paid coal companies to stay open.
  • The creation of independent bodies for controlling the investment in renewable energy (Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) will take the decision making out of the hands of energy ministers, many of whom, like Martin Ferguson currently, have strong links to the fossil fuel and uranium industries and are biased against renewable energy.
  • The creation of independent advisory body the Climate Change Authority to advise on emissions targets and using the Productivity Commission to examine industry compensation will pressure government to improve the scheme over time.
  • Putting aside a minimum of $5 billion over five years (and maximum $10 billion) for investment in renewable energy is a good way to spend the carbon price revenue. The old CPRS had money going only to household and polluter compensation.
  • There are also a whole bunch of small components which improve on the old scheme. For example burning woodchips from native forests can no longer be counted as renewable energy. Also, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is being forced to plan for a 100% renewable electricity grid, triggering a shift in thinking within the organisation.


Where does it fall short?

There is still a very long way to go. Some of the key problems are:

  • The target of 5% emissions reductions by 2020 is pathetically small and well below anything even closely resembling a science-based target (which is closer to 100% by 2020). There is still no vision for a zero emissions economy and a clear pathway for how we will get there.
  • The huge amounts of unjustifiable hand-outs to the big polluters remain. A lot of these handouts will go to shareholders as windfall profits at our expense.
  • Most of the fossil fuel subsidies remain untouched.
  • Large sections of our transport emissions are excluded from this package, meaning there is little incentive to reduce petrol usage.
  • There is no mechanism to stop a transition to gas rather than renewable energy. Allowing our economy to go from being powered by coal to gas is suicidal. A carrot and stick approach to gas and renewable energy, such as banning new gas plants and providing a feed-in tariff for large and medium-scale wind and solar projects is something we need to keep fighting for.


Final points

While this policy by itself won’t do much, once it has passed parliament and implemented it will represent a significant political victory over the big polluters and the climate change denier faction in the Liberal and National Parties, who have been fighting long and hard against any climate action for around 20 years. It will hopefully be a basis from which to shift the politics further towards prosperity and survival.

Word from some of the negotiators is that that without our doorknocking, emailing, rallying and phone calling, this package would have been a lot worse than it is. And of course without the hung parliament and Adam Bandt being elected in Melbourne, it wouldn’t have happened at all.


Further information

Government website

Greens website

Crikey coverage

ABC Environment

The Conversation

Yarra Council split on climate stance

On Tuesday night Yarra Council voted four votes to five to reject a motion calling on the Federal Government to implement a large range of measures for achieving a safe climate future. This motion was put to council by Mayor Alison Clarke at the request of Yarra Climate Action Now and was found by a staff member to be consistent with Yarra City Council’s own climate policies.

The proposed motion expressed support for a carbon price as well as the following measures:

  • Offset the financial implications of the carbon price for households, through measures such as rebates for energy efficiency and financial assistance for low-income households, to ensure that they are not further disadvantaged by the effects of taking action on climate change.
  • Adopt a long-term zero-emissions target for the whole Australian economy, and draw up and immediately implement a plan for how to meet this target.
  • Any new power plants constructed should substantially reduce net emissions and assist in the rapid transition of our major baseload power supply from coal to renewables.
  • Invest in a just and rapid transition to less polluting industries for workers and local communities in places such as Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, based on advice that is independent and evidence-based.
  • Invest the carbon tax revenue not required for household and worker/industry compensation in renewable energy generation, including baseload solar thermal.
  • Introduce a gross national feed-in tariff, to pay a guaranteed fair price for all electricity produced by all forms of renewable energy, including baseload solar thermal.
  • Initiate a mass roll-out of energy-efficiency measures, particularly for residential and commercial buildings, in partnership with interested local governments, many of which already have considerable experience and expertise in this area.
  • Shift investment away from roads and into rail freight, walking, cycling and public transport, including urban and regional/rural public transport and high-speed rail between capital cities.
  • End the logging of carbon-dense old growth forests and broad-scale native vegetation clearing, and invest in revegetation projects.
  • Minimise administrative complexity in the carbon price mechanism, and build flexibility into it, so that the price can be adjusted in line with not only inflation but also technological change and updated scientific information about the extent and severity of climate change.

While the Greens and Cr Fristacky voted for the motion, the Labor and Socialist councillors and Cr Smedley voted against it.

YCAN would like to express our extreme disappointment with the councillors that voted against this motion as it represents a clear and comprehensive list of essential policy measures. We aren’t surprised the Labor Party councillors Funder and Barbour voted against it. While the Federal Government is working on implementing a carbon price, it is also funding the new HRL coal-fired power station, and working to expand coal and gas extraction and export. This hypocrisy and continued taxpayer support for the fossil fuel industry means that Labor Party representatives may be constrained in calling for climate action that will make a real difference. When will Labor finally stand up to the big polluters and do the right thing?

We are surprised that Councillors Jolly and Main from the Socialist Party voted against this motion. This is despite Cr Jolly campaigning for a zero emissions economy and the replacement of Hazelwood with renewable energy at the 2010 State Election. YCAN members present at the council meeting reported that the main argument used by the Socialists against the motion was that they didn’t support market-based mechanisms (carbon pricing) and it didn’t call for the re-nationalisation of the electricity sector.

This stance means throwing the baby out with the bathwater. YCAN is also ambivalent about market-based mechanisms, with evidence from Europe showing that they have achieved little in the goal of reducing emissions (although our survey found that 83% of those asked in Nth Fitzroy and Clifton Hill support a price on carbon). However, that is why this motion had a whole range of other demands and policy measures, consistent with YCAN’s own carbon price stance. The climate crisis is bearing down upon us and may require some political compromise for action to occur.

We invite the Yarra Councillors to comment below and explain their stance to YCAN members.

Sleepers wake! With courage we can build a post-carbon Australia

Originally published in The Conversation on 30 May 2011. By John Wiseman (University of Melbourne) and Taegen Edwards (University of Melbourne and YCAN).


How many wake up calls do we need? The latest International Energy Agency figures, published in today’s Guardian newspaper, show global carbon emissions are at their highest ever levels.

As IEA chief economist Fatih Birol notes “I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions. It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say.”

Alongside recently released reports from Professor Ross Garnaut and the Climate Commission this is yet another resounding wake up call for Australians to focus our vision and energy on the nation building challenge of our time: designing and constructing a just and sustainable road to a post-carbon economy and society.

Adaptation will only take us so far

The time has surely now come for Australians to move beyond the foolishness of climate change denial and to honestly face the full consequences of our climate change responsibilities.

We will have to lift our gaze well beyond wishful thinking. We need to let go of the hope we can address climate change risks without significant changes to business-as-usual lifestyles and policies.

Of course we have to help communities deal with the impacts of increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events. This will take far sighted, strategic investment to build the infrastructure, resilience and adaptability required.

But it is naïve in the extreme to think that adaptation alone will allow us a smooth path through a world in which global warming exceeds four degrees.

Plus four degrees will take more than a little getting used to. (AAP)


As Lord Nicholas Stern warns, a world beyond four degrees will be an utterly different world to the Earth we now know.

“Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.”

Alarmist? Ask Heather Smith, Deputy Head of Australia’s Of?ce of National Assessments, who has also noted that current emissions trends have us well on track for global warming of four degrees by 2100.

ONA analysis suggests that, by 2030, decreased water ?ows from the Himalayan glaciers will already be triggering a “cascade of economic, social and political consequences”.

Does anyone seriously think that adaptation alone will enable Australians to remain immune from changes of this magnitude?

It will take more than a carbon price to get us out of this

We do need to set a price on carbon – but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that market based mechanisms will, on their own be sufficient.

Clearly a wide variety of policies will be needed to do the heavy lifting to drive innovation and investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon sequestration.

Germany and Spain are, for example employing a feed-in tariff for large scale wind and solar thermal plants with considerable success.

Like it or not, we’ll need to cut back. (AAP)


The key elements for a rapid transition to a zero carbon economy are now well known.

The richest societies and citizens must reduce their material consumption. We must make a complete switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy plus forest and soil based carbon sequestration.

A just and sustainable transition will also require unprecedented investment in adaptation. We will need income and resource redistribution to protect the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable and least affluent communities – within and beyond Australia.

Visionary initiatives such as Zero Carbon Australia and Zero Carbon Britain demonstrate that the technological obstacles to the rapid achievement of a zero carbon future are not insurmountable. We need to inspire and encourage a 21st century Renaissance in post carbon creativity and innovation.

Time to catch up, Australia

The recent decisions by conservative governments in the UK, Germany and Japan to set strong emissions reduction and renewable energy targets suggest that the economic and political obstacles can be overcome. It just takes courageous political leadership driven by broad public mobilisation and support.

These decisions should certainly put an end to the nonsense that Australia is leading rather than trailing the world in emissions reduction.

Chinese solar
Australia has some solar catching up to do. (Desmond Kavanagh/Flickr)


While the German and UK strategies and timescales still fall well short of the required milestones, the contrast with the depressingly narrow political vision being demonstrated in Australia is striking.

The likelihood that Australia will be left behind in the economic paradigm shift to a renewable energy future grows stronger by the day.

Many Australians – particularly young people – believe, with some justification, that it is already too late to prevent significant climate change tipping points and impacts.

An overly linear analysis of current trends in Australian public opinion, political debate and corporate power can lead one to believe the climate change crisis will not end well.

But history has many examples of resistance and transformation against apparently overwhelming odds. The end of slavery; the US civil rights movement; the overthrow of apartheid; and the current democratic revolutions in the Middle East remind us that transformational change rarely occurs in an entirely predictable and linear way.

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently noted when she informed the German parliament that, in the light of the Japanese nuclear crisis, Germany would speed up plans to abandon nuclear power and reach the age of renewable energy as soon as possible: “When in Japan the apparently impossible becomes possible, then the situation changes”.

Australians face a stark choice. We can wait for a series of escalating climatic disasters to wake us from our fossil fuelled complacency.

Or we can demonstrate the maturity, leadership and vision needed to ensure that we are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

YCAN carbon price statement

Australians are already suffering from the impacts of climate change and fossil fuel dependence. Worsening droughts, bushfires and floods are costing lives, damaging our economy, and increasing food prices. Our reliance on oil and gas is exposing us to severe economic shocks as the prices of these fuels increase.

Australia must play its part in rapidly reducing emissions globally, or else these impacts will continue to worsen and more lives will be lost, eventually reaching a point where adaptation will be impossible.

A price on carbon is a good first step (but only a first step) towards a zero emissions economy, provided it is fair and designed appropriately. We congratulate the Labor Party, Greens and independents for committing to a price on carbon and urge them not to capitulate to the bullying and greed of the fossil fuel industry.

A fair and well-designed carbon price mechanism should result in the replacement of fossil fuel infrastructure like Hazelwood Power Station with renewable energy. To that end it must include:

  • No “compensation” for polluting corporations;
  • No right to purchase dodgy offsets here or overseas instead of paying the carbon price;
  • Inclusion of petrol and natural gas;
  • Indexed compensation for low income households so they are better off (on average) under the scheme;
  • All the money left over after low income households are compensated should be invested in renewable energy projects;
  • Indexed annual increases in the carbon price higher than the background inflation; and
  • An initial price of at least $70 per tonne to promote wind energy rather than gas. Solar energy should be promoted through other means (see below).

It is obvious that a price on carbon is nowhere near enough to get us to a prosperous and sustainable economy. Additional measures are urgently needed and should be included as part of this carbon price package. These measures must include:

  • A long-term plan for a zero emissions economy and a roadmap for how to get there;
  • An end to all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies;
  • A feed-in tariff for large-scale renewable energy – particularly baseload solar thermal, which is commercially available right now;
  • An end to land clearing and logging of old-growth forests;
  • A ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure, including gas-fired power stations;
  • A transition plan and job guarantees for communities and workers who lose employment and economic activity due to the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy (renewable energy creates two jobs for every job lost in coal so it won’t be that hard);
  • A mass roll-out of energy efficiency measures, particularly for residential and commercial buildings; and
  • A shift in investment from roads to public transport, including high-speed rail between capital cities.

To send an email to the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee encouraging them to adopt this position click here.

Community Forum: the politics of pollution

What will a price on pollution mean for the community and what else will we need to do to transition to a zero emissions economy?
Adam Bandt, Federal MP for Melbourne
Cr Alison Clarke, Mayor of the City of Yarra
Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute
This forum will have a question and answer session after the speakers
Wednesday 4th May
6.30 – 8pm -Fitzroy Town Hall 201 Napier Street, Fitzroy
Free entry

Vote Climate attempted smear backfires

The Melbourne Times Weekly on 17 November published an article claiming that one of the independent candidates for the upper house, Adrian Whitehead, put together the Vote Climate scorecards and rated himself. This is untrue (and without basis) and the Melbourne Times Weekly did not seek comment from any community climate group involved in Vote Climate to correct the Labor Party’s attacks that stemmed from this misrepresentation. The scorecards that are being distributed across Melbourne were put together by the respective community climate group from that area and no candidate was involved in putting them together.
Mr Whitehead was involved in research for the Vote Climate website (in which he is not mentioned or rated) and has been for many years. He has also been a climate activist for many years and is running in this election on a science-based climate action platform.  However, the final word on scoring was given independently by non-partisan climate action groups and the scorecard mentioned in the article was prepared without any input from him and separate from the website (YCAN’s scorecard focuses on the lower house anyway, with no upper house candidates rated). At no stage was Mr Whitehead involved in assessing a score for himself. We stand by Vote Climate’s assessment of the candidates’ climate policies as accurate and fair.
The article also quotes a Rick Brown without revealing that he works with Fiona Richardson’s (Labor member for Northcote’s) husband. His Labor and Liberal party links should have been revealed in the article as he was commenting on the Vote Climate campaign and is obviously not an independent voice on the matter.
We have been informed that the Melbourne Times will issue a correction next week.

Vote Climate website and scorecard released

The Vote Climate website is now live. Click on the link to inform your vote. There is a lot of spin coming from the major parties and the Labor Party in particular on climate change, but when their policies are held up to real scrutiny they don’t stack up. The climate crisis is the most pressing and important issue we face, and basing your vote and preferences on the strength of climate policy coming from the parties and candidates is a great way to help push for strong and urgent action.
YCAN has also released our summary scorecard for the seat of Richmond:

As you can see there is a clear difference between the two big parties and the more progressive candidates. We will be distributing these scorecards in the electorate. If you can help please click here.
For further information Climate Action Moreland has written an excellent and detailed analysis of the Labor Party’s record on coal here in Victoria.

Brumby’s Quarry Vision

Originally published in Arena Magazine.
John Brumby stands looking upwards into the distance, squinting and baring his nice straight teeth. Behind him is a giant octagonal configuration of mirrors reflecting the sun’s rays against a backdrop of perfect blue sky. They call this greenie porn: pictures of big shiny solutions for the energy dilemmas of our time, like this one taken at a large-scale solar power plant.
Cashing in on the appeal in this advertisement in an inner-Melbourne local paper we read: ‘John Brumby and Labor – Leading Australia on Climate Change’. There are some dot points about making Victoria the ‘Solar State’, about spending $650 million on climate change and renewable energy programs; $10 billion on unspecified new investment and jobs; a target for emissions cuts of 20 per cent by 2020 on 2000 levels; and a staged closure of Hazelwood power station. Interesting for a state government that has overseen steady increases in greenhouse gas emissions over the eleven years it has held power.
There is no questioning the motivation here. Following the 2010 federal election (in which Julia Gillard’s strategy on climate policy was to duck and deflect), the large swing to the Greens across the country, and especially in Victoria, resulted in that party gaining the balance of power in the Senate and claiming the lower house seat of Melbourne. Facing an election of his own on 27 November, with four seats at risk of being lost to the Greens, Brumby has made no secret that he has a different strategy in mind. On 26 July, as Abbott and Gillard’s campaigns were already in full swing, he released his Climate Change White Paper.
This long-awaited statement of Victoria’s climate policy agenda looked fresh: first, because it was in radical contrast with the federal climate change policy vacuum; second, because it actually did reflect a new approach from the Brumby government. Previous drafts focussing almost exclusively on ‘adaptation’ had had to be pulped as carbon prices went on and off the national agenda, and Brumby finally decided emissions reductions could not be left to higher forces.
Unfortunately, Brumby’s apparent climate policy stance has very little to do with the substance of his policies. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence of politics-as-usual, which continues to fall distressingly short of the task of altering our progress along a path to ecological disaster. It boils down to the question of how we might assess leadership on climate change. If it were a question of relativity we might have reason to congratulate the Brumby government for taking some steps forward. The problem is that they are baby steps, and can be explained more easily by a fear of losing votes to the Greens rather than any real comprehension of climate change science.
The capacity of politics-as-usual to live up to the task of avoiding dangerous climate change has been questioned before and found wanting. In their 2008 assessment of the dramatic, widening gap between the response that climate science demands and the response actually given, David Spratt and Philip Sutton in Climate Code Red pointed to the short-term, adversarial and incremental mode of politics conventional in Western nations like ours. This mode is ‘steeped in a culture of compromise that is fearful of deep, quick change—which suggests it is incapable of managing the transition [to a safe-climate economy] at the necessary speed’. Nothing has changed, except that is, the amount of evidence in support of this statement.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Australian approach to coal, with politics-as-usual meaning a refusal to deviate from the ‘quarry vision’ so aptly described by Guy Pearse in his 2009 Quarterly Essay, Quarry Vision: Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom. This is an ingrained mentality—shared by the vast majority of politicians, the business sector and many citizens: that Australia is a nation dependent both for domestic electricity and export income on digging up, shipping out and burning coal.
While the imperative to break with this mentality could not be stronger, for reasons ranging from the moral to the pragmatic, there is no indication that this is occurring where it matters most. Witness QR National proudly boasting their coal freight activities and asking that Australians invest in the idea that this will continue indefinitely. Witness federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson feigning ignorance when presented with the prospect of the need to draw up transition plans for coal workers. Meanwhile ABARE proudly reports that Australian coal exports reached record levels in the December quarter 2009 and projects that exports will rise by 88 per cent between 2004/2005 and 2029/2030.
But what of Premier Brumby and his latest advertisements? Should we be grateful that he did not pose next to a big pile of coal and some smokestacks? Unfortunately there is nothing to suggest that Brumby’s own quarry vision is wavering, beyond his apparent recognition that it may not be the best thing to emphasise in an election context.
A key element of Brumby’s climate policy platform is a commitment to shutting down a quarter of production at Hazelwood—Australia’s most polluting coal-fired power station—over the next four years. Considering it was due to close in 2009 but had its life extended in 2005 by then Labor Premier Steve Bracks for an extra few decades, this is hardly a position worth celebrating. It should have gone completely off-line by now. With Victoria’s potential for baseload solar thermal power it is possible to replace all of Hazelwood’s generating capacity with renewable energy within the same four year timeframe. However as it stands under Brumby’s plan, a quarter of Hazelwood’s current output will probably be replaced with coal power from another source.
Even worse than this, and certainly not a lead item on Brumby’s climate policy agenda, is the proposal currently waiting for approval from EPA Victoria to build a brand new 600 megawatt coal-fired power station near Morwell in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. The HRL Dual Gas proposal has the support of both the Brumby Government who have committed $50 million and the Commonwealth Government ($100 million). They claim that the use of synthetic gas (from the drying and gasification of brown coal) and natural gas at the new plant will ensure the emissions intensity is lower than any other coal plants operating in Victoria. Again, this is nothing to get excited about. While the HRL Dual Gas plant would indeed help to bring Victoria into line with other coal plants in Australia by producing emissions slightly below the level of a typical black coal power station, the emissions intensity of the plant would still be almost double the OECD average. One wonders why the Brumby Government would make their own target to reduce 20% of emissions by 2020 that much harder by committing to new coal power development that will increase emissions and lock in reliance on coal for years to come.
Further evidence that the Brumby Government has expansion rather than curtailment in mind for Victoria’s coal industry emerged in September 2009. At that time Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor was reported to be championing a proposal by Australian-based company Exergen, to mine, dry and export 12 million tonnes of brown coal annually to India.  Confidential cabinet documents obtained the next month by The Age showed that this was only the tip of the iceberg with the Brumby Government considering a competitive tender process to sell off billions of tonnes of Latrobe Valley brown coal reserves to companies looking to open up new coal export markets overseas. Premier Brumby himself said that given Australia exports oil, gas, black coal and uranium, he saw no reason why Victoria should not export brown coal. Yet, by December 2009 the export deals had been shelved, seemingly because the run in the media and backlash from environment groups had ignited fears of broader voter disapproval. However this has not been ruled out, and one should ask whether the plan to expand coal exports might emerge again after a Labor election victory.
Premier Brumby may not be all he is cracking himself up to be on climate change, but how much does it matter to Victorian voters? The gamble is that green message will beat the substance, which is probably a safe bet in this age of marketing supremacy. The strategy is clever enough to sway people without the time or inclination to consider the details.
Brumby’s approach is likely to mean that NGOs, community groups and individuals concerned about climate change will have to work harder than they did during the recent federal election campaign where it was easy to show that Gillard had nothing to offer on climate issues. The task is to build public understanding so that Brumby and others in positions of power can be judged on just how far their policies are really intended to secure a safe climate future.
Taegen Edwards is a member of Yarra Climate Action Now, an independent community group based in the inner Melbourne suburbs of the City of Yarra. She works as a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.