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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Turnbull on climate change « Previous | |Next »
May 20, 2011

It appears that the Gillard Government believes that a carbon price alone is enough for deploying renewable energy at scale that would shift the Australian economy to a low carbon one. It is doubtful that a large amount of the proposed carbon price revenue will be allocated to clean technology projects as well as for household compensation.

The debate on how to reduce greenhouse emissions from coal fired power energy generation is starting to become serious. It is starting moving beyond the slogans, deception and handouts in a context where the Liberals smell a big victory at the next election.

SpoonerJWindenergy.jpg

Policy issues are coming to the fore and the political party's policies to address the greenhouse emission issue are starting to be publicly evaluated. For instance, on Lateline Malcolm Turnbull described the Coalition's position on reducing emissions with offsets (such as biofuels, soil treatments and reforestation) rather than restricting Australia's carbon emissions with clarity. He then critically assessed it.

Turnbull said:

the Coalition, as you know, no longer supports an emissions trading scheme or a - what you would call a market-based mechanism for putting a price on carbon. ...The Coalition's policy, as laid out by Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt, involves spending taxpayers' money, taking out of the budget, so many billions of dollars, to pay farmer in particular ...the way it works is that the taxpayer - the taxpayers' money would be used to buy carbon offsets from farmers, so that as industry pollutes, the Government would then spend taxpayers' dollars to buy carbon offsets to offset that pollution...It is a policy where... the Government does pick winners, there's no doubt about that, where the Government does spend taxpayers' money to pay for investments to offset the emissions by industry.

Turnbull, in his imitable style, then went onto comment on the politics of the Coalition's policy, in a way that could be called telling the truth. He outlined the advantages and disadvantages in a way that would not enthuse his Liberal party colleagues.

He says that:

as a long-term mechanism of cutting carbon emissions, in a very substantial way to the levels that the scientists are telling us we need to do by mid-century to avoid dangerous climate change, then a direct action policy where the Government - where industry was able to freely pollute, if you like, and the Government was just spending more and more taxpayers' money to offset it, that would become a very expensive charge on the budget in the years ahead.

However, the scheme has two virtues from the point of view of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt:
One is that it can be easily terminated. If in fact climate change is proved to be not real, which some people obviously believe - I don't. If you believe climate change is going to be proved to be unreal, then a scheme like that can be brought to an end... Or if you believe that there is not going to be any global action and that the rest of the world will just say, "It's all too hard and we'll just let the planet get hotter and hotter," and, you know, heaven help our future generations - if you take that rather grim, fatalistic view of the future and you want to abandon all activity, a scheme like that is easier to stop.

Turnbull's commentary is a pretty effective in showing the limitations of the Coalition's climate change policy. The limitations are so great that Turnbull has repudiated the policy.

Where to now then? Is pricing carbon all that is needed to help shift the Australian economy to a low carbon one? In the interview Turnbull talked about the coming technological revolution which is going to be similar to the information or the industrial revolution. That means big investments in clean energy. How do we achieve that?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:17 AM | | Comments (9)
Comments

Comments

"It is moving beyond the slogans deception and handouts"

Tony Abbott is now saying that pricing carbon (a carbon tax ) would mean an end to Weet-Bix.

In the Lateline interview Turnbull also highlighted the importance of reducing greenhouse emissions by mentioning the opportunities it presents.

He said that the Cameron Conservatives in the UK:

take the view that there is an enormous opportunity to get onto the front foot and get into a leadership role in terms of clean technology, low-emission technology, that this is a coming technological revolution, it's going to be - just like the information revolution or the industrial revolution, the green tech or clean tech revolution will be as significant as that as we hopefully move to de-carbonise the world's economy.
Now, that is a very important technological shift. Britain has a prime minister with vision who wants to be part of that change.

You hear nothing like that from Abbott.---its just the slogan, ' great big tax on evereything'.

I'll say it again. There was a time (before COP5, from memory), when the "market-based mechanisms" weren't the only game in town. Such mechanisms were adopted when Clinton was US President in order to get the US to sign up to Kyoto. They didn't sign up, in the end, but the rest of us remain lumbered with what at the time were seen as second-best strategies.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Coalition is entirely to be trusted to implement "direct action". But it does mean that so-called direct action has a history and was in the past embraced by many as a better option than market mechanisms.

gordon,
it is true that a carbon price is no silver bullet. It will make fossil fuels less attractive and help make carbon emissions a cost item for business.

However, we do need investment in clean technology, low-emission technology in order to roll out the low-carbon infrastructure needed to decarbonise the economy.

On the ABC's Drum Leigh Ewbank, from Beyond Zero Emissions, makes the following point:

The foundation of a clean energy economy requires infrastructure such as new transmission lines, smart grids, high-speed rail, electric vehicle recharge stations, upgraded metropolitan transport systems, and baseload solar power plants. Additional policy mechanisms, including public investment, will still be needed to fund these infrastructures that are currently beyond the capacity of the private sector.

Combet is just beginning to talk this way.

Leigh Ewbank also says that pricing carbon will do nothing to address the climate impacts of Australia’s massive coal export industry. Only the Greens have raised this issue.

the policy reality in Australia is that there will be a steady decline in the proportion of renewable energy sources and an ever increasing reliance on coal-fired power to meet increasing demand.

There is no hint of serious investment in renewable technologies to make them cheaper in Australia. Australia is going to increase its dependence on coal.

Turnbull is crazy brave on climate change issues. He has more credibility on the best ways to reduce greenhouse emissions than either Gillard or Abbott or Greg Hunt. These three address the issue in terms of playing politics.

Turnbull sees it as a really serious policy issue, which has to be addressed properly. The Liberal partyroom detests Turnbull for telling it how it is, despite his popular appeal.

Turnbull is not courting the vote of the climate deniers. These days, that's bravery, bordering on foolishness.

Now... watch him get stomped!

Turnbull updates his position on his blog.