Last chance on climate change policy

With August 2016 setting yet another record for global temperatures, the need for action on climate change is obvious. The good news is that most national governments are finally recognising the urgency of the problem. The bad news is that Australia is not among them. Having commissioned a Special Review from the Climate Change Authority (of which I’m a member) and received recommendations designed with the current policy as a starting point, the government’s response has been that it might take another look at the problem in 2017.

I’ve written the statement over the fold in response. Comments very welcome. I won’t engage in discussion; in this context, I’d rather let the statement speak for itself.

Statement by Professor John Quiggin regarding government response to Climate Change Authority Special Review report
1. The Climate Change Authority is an independent body responsible for delivering independent expert advice on climate change policy within the principles set out in the Climate Change Authority Act 2011. In my view, the Authority’s primary obligation is to provide the Parliament, which established it, with a basis on which Parliament can adopt, and the government can implement, policies to meet Australia’s international obligations. As stated in previous reports by the Authority, and reiterated in the current report, our commitment to internationally equitable policies consistent with holding global warming below 2 degrees will require emissions reductions of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030. This is consistent with the evidence of climate science and with the actions being taken by other countries to meet their commitments.
2. It is therefore appropriate, in my view, for advice on the design of climate policy to take account of the existing settings of policy, the general desirability of consistency and stability in policy, and the policy commitments already made by parties and members of Parliament, . That is, it is appropriate to recommend a policy or policy toolkit that is:
(i) able to be implemented in the short run and scaled up over time to meet Australia’s international obligations, bearing in mind that our existing indicative commitments will themselves be scaled up over time; and
(ii) based on existing policies and capable of commanding broad support in Parliament
even if, in the absence of the constraints imposed by the history of policy in this field, other policies might be regarded as more cost-effective and reliable.
3. Conversely, it is not appropriate for the Authority, as an independent advisory body to accept political constraints that would be inconsistent with the obligation to make recommendations consistent with our international obligations.
4. I believe that the toolkit proposed by the Authority meets the criteria set out in point 2 and I therefore commend it to the Parliament.
5. The Authority’s report has received favourable responses from stakeholders including the Business Council of Australia, AIGroup and the Australian Energy Council.
6. However, an effective response to Australia’s international obligations is feasible only if the major parties, and particularly the government parties, understand the urgency of the problem and are committed to adopting a comprehensive response as soon as possible.
7. Unfortunately, government’s response so far suggests that
(a) the government is unlikely to contemplate any further action before the completion of a review scheduled for the second half of 2017; and
(b) even in the context of this review, the government does not intend to make substantial modifications to current policies along the lines suggested in the Authority’s report.
8. Of particular concern are statements by the Minister for the Environment and Energy to ABC radio that the CCA recommendations were “a report to, not by, government” and that:

Now we’re doing a review in 2017, but it has to be said we are seeing a dramatic transition already in the energy markets in Australia and we are transitioning to a lower emissions future successfully with the policies we currently have in place.

The dismissal of a report requested by the government has been widely interpreted as a rejection of the recommendations. The claim that existing policies are sufficient to achieve a transition to a lower emissions future is entirely inconsistent with the findings of the Authority’s report.
9. These statements are of even greater concern in the light of:
(a) The earlier characterisation of the 2017 review as a ‘situation report’; and
(b) The statement, attributed to the Minister, that the government does not plan to refer any further issues to the Authority for review.
Taken together, these statements suggest that a substantial change in policy as a result of the 2017 review is not anticipated, and that no serious consideration of policy options will be undertaken prior to the review.
10. The problem is exacerbated the omission from the 2016-17 budget of any additional funding for the Emissions Reduction Fund;
11. In practice, the government’s apparent position is likely to preclude the implementation of any effective policy response during the term of the current Parliament.
12. Should the government fail to act now, the toolkit proposed by the Authority is unlikely to prove sufficient to meet Australia’s international commitments. More radical and costly action in the future will be needed to offset the growth in emissions caused by short term inaction.
13. I urge the government to reconsider its position and adopt the recommendations of the Authority’s review as a matter of urgency. I urge the Parliament as a whole to seek agreement on an approach to climate policy that can be sustained, and scaled up, over the period to 2030 and beyond, consistent with Australia’s international obligations.

68 thoughts on “Last chance on climate change policy

  1. @GrueBleen

    GrueBleen :
    @Troy Prideaux
    It’s better than iridology, ya reckon ?

    If you look at the trial results so far, the results are quite amazing. My point basically was, that if the sound channel of your media stream was high enough fidelity, you could potentially hold your smart phone up to your media stream and make a diagnosis from her cough (on the other side of the planet) if her issue was respiratory related like pneumonia.

  2. @GrueBleen

    HRC is completely corrupt and objectionable on moral grounds as is Trump. But many of the faux lefties are tribalist (as per J.Q.’s terminology) and blindly support her and/or say it is forbidden to criticise her or raise concerning issues because she is a woman. It’s tribalist groupthink plain and simple. Clearly, a lot of the faux left and the fashionably liberal and liberated don’t understand the first thing about what is really going on in American or world power politics. The naivety is staggering. It represents a complete lack of critical thinking.

  3. @Ikonoclast
    Whatever your objections to HRC on policy and/or personal integrity grounds may be, I don’t think you’re in a position to accuse others of a lack of critical thinking while you insist in relying exclusively on conspiracy and right wing sources with regard to HRC’s health, when you wouldn’t rely on those sources otherwise. Your accusations of naivety look an awful lot like deflection from your own transparently non-rational position.

  4. Assange has to put up or shut up.

    It is quite possible that Clinton’s funded Middle Eastern groups in a different context than today.

    The USA does stir-up domestic troubles, including armed violence, right across the globe. The Afghan terrorists didn’t build their own stinger missiles did they?

  5. @Ikonoclast
    And just in case it isn’t obvious, I’ll point out that your quote with respect to HRC’s authorisation of drone strikes while she was Secretary of State tells you absolutely nothing about the state of her health, and affords absolutely no reason to believe conspiracy site claims about her health (or anything else for that matter).

  6. @GrueBleen
    People have different views with respect to policy and the morality of particular acts and decisions. These are value judgments, and imho people are entitled to hold different views on these things, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. Factual claims (like the state of HRC’s health) are different.

  7. @Tim Macknay
    Your #55

    Umm, why are you stating the bleedin’ bloody obvious ?

    What I was curious about is your particular views on these matters and why that would be such as to ‘prejudice’ your view of HRC. I personally have not encountered anything believable about HRC that inclines me to think that she is anything but a fairly typical politician, and probably amongst the better ones at that.

    But, as noted, this really should transfer to Sandpit.

  8. @Ikonoclast
    Your #51

    Sheesh, mate, what is the value of the Gravitational Constant in the universe you live in ?

    To me HRC is just your average slightly grubby politician – actually better than most. Yair, she’s a bit trigger happy, and she has blood on her hands, but so does every major politician in America – it’s their tribal way. Besides, a goodly selection of Australian politicians also have blood on their hands.

    But corrupt ? That’s just another one of your personal fantasies – no doubt fueled by Ailes and Faux Noise amongst many others.

    Any’ow, as per the ruling consensus, this should go to Sandpit, I guess.

  9. As long as Australia doesn’t get to the situation where we build new fossil fuel power plants, I am quite sanguine about the exact trajectory in getting to net zero carbon emissions. Sure it would be better to get there quicker, but I don’t see much cost to the world or to Australia in being slower than we should. So it is great john that you are pushing hard for good policy, but a loss in this battle won’t have too many negative consequences.

  10. Look, I can’t be sure about HRC’s health, but that “police” shooting in Tulsa? Isn’t it obvious that HRC was hiding in the bushes with a sniper rifle?

    And anybody who doesn’t see the dark hand of HRC behind the break up of Brangelina is just being purposefully blind

  11. @John Goss

    This is the lousy “it’ll be alright Jack” view that ensures nothing it done until it is too late.

    There is now a new religion “net zero emissions” but, like God, the personification of everything Good, no possibility of ever meeting them.

    But lets assume you know something about what you are talking about.

    What is the amount of emissions you think is “net zero” per capita?

  12. Is our LNP is even capable of introducing effective climate policies? I think that even if Mr Turnbull has a genuine personal commitment to it his hold over the party is so weak and his need to appease the climate obstructionists so strong that I can’t see it. Not that I have any real confidence in that alleged commitment anymore – in retrospect it looks more like an expedient way to pre-position himself as a centre ground leader that can win over middle Australia to the LNP than positioning himself to win over the LNP and bring it into the centre.

    Australia is effectively rudderless on climate and even if Paris is ratified – and I am not convinced that is assured – meeting it’s targets requires more commitment than this government can possibly muster; somehow it’s failures will be framed as the fault of Labor and Greens (or perhaps that should be Labor and Greens will be framed). I expect our mainstream media, including toothless ABC, will willingly assist them in that.

    In the absence of real policy it will be growth of renewables because they make financial sense that deliver what constrained improvements in emissions that may be achieved, but they will do so in a continuing climate of contrived criticism as the wreckers of network reliability. I seriously doubt that RE growth will, in that absence, be enough. What I do hope for is that it will help undermine the economic alarmist foundations that climate science denial and obstructionism is built upon and lead to future governments daring to show a real, abiding commitment to a transition to low emissions.

  13. Ivor
    Lots of academic groups have shown that Australia can easily get to net zero emissions by 2050, the SA, Victorian and ACT governments have adopted this as a target and there are lots of pathways to get there. You can construct your own preferred pathway at the following site.
    And we should move to net zero emissions earlier than 2050.
    This Government is being negligent in its slowness with regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and if the rest of the world followed Australia’s example the world would be in big trouble. So we in Australia have a moral obligation to do better than we are doing at present.

    The fact remains though, that we are too small to make much of a difference to where the world will end up on this issue. And that is good news, because I wouldn’t want the fate of the world on this issue to be in the hands of this Government.

  14. @John Goss

    The fact remains though, that we are too small to make much of a difference to where the world will end up on this issue.

    If Australia’s reluctance and resistance gives heart to the latent reluctance and resistance within other nations – whether they lesser or greater direct contributors to the problem – then we can and will make a difference to where the world ends up. If Australia commits itself to do no more than the least that any other nations commit to and others justify their weak commitments similarly it will make a huge difference. It seemed that PM Abbott had sought to win other nations to join in such a coalition of resistance and, practically speaking, the same underlying politics continues to be played out under PM Turnbull.

  15. The reason I said Ken Fabian, that Australia is ‘too small to make much of a difference’ rather than ‘too small to make a difference’ is because there is indeed, as you point out, an example effect from our (in)actions. But again that example effect is going to be small. (In some situations a small effect can be important if, for example, a country holds a swing vote. But I don’t see that Australia holds that sort of power at present).
    All I am trying to say is that the rationale for Australia acting on this issue is because its the morally correct thing to do, not because the effect of our actions is likely to be significant.

  16. @John Goss

    I have been aware of “ClimateWorks” but I thought they had no mechanism for implementation.

    For instance:

    Has any political group in Parliament called for:

    1) 86 TwHr of nuke-generated electricity by 2050? How can this be implemented?

    2) Shutting down all coal-fired power stations by 2050? How can this be implemented?

    3) Over 1,000 PetaJoules of biofuels by 2050? How many by 2020 or when do we start?

    Presumably to even start on this pathway, to the extent necessary, legislation and funding must go through several Parliaments by 2020 (or when?). So which group of parliamentarians in which government have started work on this?

    Where is international air travel accounted for in the ClimateWorks calculator?

    How have they addressed the current rate of 35 kg per capita use of plastics [] ?

    What do they propose to do with Australia’s cement production?

    There have been just as many proposals to make housing affordable that sounded great but naturally led nowhere.

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