My resignation from the Climate Change Authority

Earlier today, I wrote to Josh Frydenberg, the Minister for Energy and Environment, resigning as a Member of the Climate Change Authority. Mine is the third recent resignation: Clive Hamilton resigned in February, and Danny Price a couple of days ago. There’s a story in the Guardian here. My resignation statement is over the fold.

Resignation from the Climate Change Authority: Statement by John Quiggin

I have written today to the Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP to submit my resignation as a Member of the Climate Change Authority.

My immediate reason for doing so is the government’s failure to respond, as legally required, to the Third Report of the Special Review undertaken by the Authority at the government’s request. The government has already indicated that it will reject the key recommendations of the review, particularly the introduction of an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity industry.

The government’s refusal to accept the advice of its own Authority, despite wide support for that advice from business, environmental groups and the community as a whole, reflects the comprehensive failure of its policies on energy and the environment. These failures can be traced, in large measure, to the fact that the government is beholden to rightwing anti-science activists in its own ranks and in the media. Rather than resist these extremists, the Turnbull government has chosen to treat the vital issues of climate change and energy security as an opportunity for political pointscoring and culture war rhetoric.

I do not believe there is anything useful to be gained by providing objective advice based on science and economic analysis to a government dominated by elements hostile to both science and economics.

I will therefore continue my advocacy for a sustainable response to climate change without the constraints imposed by membership of the Climate Change Authority. I wish the Authority as much success as is possible in its difficult task.

45 thoughts on “My resignation from the Climate Change Authority

  1. Very proud of you for taking a stand. Hope you can make a big difference. It is a disgrace that our govt. does not value the advice of people like yourself. You are needed – speak up.

  2. It’s the honorable way to strenuously object to the mismanagement of ones overseers but I do wonder if some of those US officials who have chosen to be in the firing line and endure being fired as a consequence may have it right. Pr Quiggin – does your resignation n free you to act in other ways?

    Despite it all, even as the issue rises to the fore our journalists still do not subject our LNP politicians to any real scrutiny over their climate disbeliefs – One Nation senators perhaps, to some extent, but not LNP members and especially not senior members. Entrenched disbelief in the seriousness of the climate problem looks to me like it’s the foundation the otherwise nonsensical positions the LNP oscillates back and forth between is built upon. Framing the energy issue as about security and cost imperatives with emissions reduction imperatives treated (with real care taken to make it sound like it’s some kind of self evident, inarguable truth) as intrinsically incompatible would not work except that our mainstream media oscillates between extreme incompetence and willful partisanship.

  3. Good stuff , John . Sadly the fire at our old school (Enfield High ) has added even more carbon to the atmosphere . I have apologised to many young people on our generation’s behalf as we are responsible for the unfortunate predicament we are rapidly spirally towards .
    Glad , there are people like you still putting up a fight against the idiots !

  4. Ikonoclast :
    The blindness of the denialists only seems to be intensifying as the crisis comes closer… The stronger the level of cognitive dissonance and the greater the threat of impending total collapse of a long held position, the more such people dig in and become ever more illogical and blind to facts.
    These comfortable right-wingers… They are effete intellectual cowards…

    I agree with all this, but the denialist attitude is very common among the “working class” too.

    Discussing climate change almost daily with my colleagues, blue collar battlers to a man (I’m one too), it’s clear that the implications of acknowledging climate science are very unattractive to blokes and threatening to their treasured blokes’ activities and way of life.

    You need a 4WD to tow the boat down the range and hammer out to the outer reef, and climate change action obviously threatens these defining pastimes. We find it very difficult to acknowledge that our fossil-fueled lifestyle is causing the destruction of our beloved GBR, so we insist that it can’t be so.

    I can’t see any solution to this other than catastrophic climate change impacts which blokes can no longer ignore, and they’ll probably come too late.

  5. And of course, Prof John Quiggin had no option other than to resign from the Climate Change Authority. The Turnbull Govt wants it to serve as a figleaf, a pretence that it is taking the issue seriously.

  6. @Ron E Joggles

    Plenty of truth to that. I do plenty of rationalising to myself like;

    (a) I caught an electric train to work most of my working life (I am virtuous).
    (b) It was powered by coal fired electricity. (I am not virtuous.)
    (c) I drive a car less kilometers per year than the average Aussie. (I am virtuous.)
    (d) The average poor third world person doesn’t even have a car. (I am not virtuous.)
    (e) I don’t fly very often. (I am virtuous.)
    (f) Most people still don’t fly at all. (I am not virtuous.)
    (g) I got solar power. (I am virtuous.)
    (h) I only got it in the last 5 years. (I am not virtuous.)

    The list goes on and on. An honest assessment is that I am still a climate criminal by any proper and necessarily stringent standard for saving the planet.

  7. @Louise
    I think that’s a good idea. All we need is a climate change science accepting philanthropist. That’s not meant to be cynical. Does anyone know someone like that?

    Plus we need a bright young lawyer who wants to make his/her mark. think Spy-catcher, was it the Oz case, etc.

  8. Totally agree with what you say and support your stance! This governments failure to adopt a progressive stance on energy and climate will cost Australia dearly.

  9. Oh, Louise, you clever person.

    This is a direction that needs implementing in sunny Australia of all places on earth.

    Environmental Lawyers, where are you?

    There will need to be action on the Executive level as well as the Personal level.

    That is a cause I will donate money towards.

  10. I will pledge initially $2000 on behalf of my family members (4) to the cause of suing the Australian government for its failure to take constructive and aggressive action on climate change and energy sustainablility, and to hold the principle decision makers to account for their failure of duty of care to the Australian public and our territories.

  11. Where to start John Homan? That would depend on your knowledge of Global Warming, the current stage of Climate Change, energy consumption and energy efficiency, environment, population change and technology. There is no one factor, it is a complex montage of physical forces, the natural environment and human dynamics.

    It should be obvious that I would have the likes of Abbott along with his cabal in prison in an instant for the self interested waste that he created and we now have to live with indefinitely.

    Perhaps we can start with how you perceive the state of the environment so I know what to address first.

  12. JQ, it seems to me your decision is consistent with your opinion on what would be a reputation saving decision for Malcolm Turnbull, which you posted some time ago. Such decisions aren’t easy.

    “I do not believe there is anything useful to be gained by providing objective advice based on science and economic analysis to a government dominated by elements hostile to both science and economics.”

    And there is ample evidence that policies that are not based on objective (methodologically sound) scientific and economic analysis are counterproductive. For example, the failure to use the abnormally high revenue from the mining boom for infrastructure investment, including the NBN and electricity distribution networks (instead of income tax cuts, starting at the wrong end of the scale), the failure to introduce a super profit tax in time and in a technically competent manner to support renewable energy industries (instead of coal industries), the failure to abolish tax expenditure such as negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions resulted in the federal budget deficit growing steadily, while housing affordability in Sydney and Melbourne has become worse, full time employment across a wide range of occupations is contracting, and wealth concentration is increasing. The RBA is concerned about financial stability. By contrast to a developer driven real estate boom, long term projects such as renewable energy and the NBN entail a demand for a wide range of occupations and income transfers (‘welfare payments’) do provide revenue for small business. etc, etc.

    While being a policy change in the right direction, the changes to the superannuation rules came very late and so did the measures to reduce tax leakages.

  13. JQ your decision is respected and your reasons for resigning more than justifiable. I think ascribing the coalitions rejection of action on climate change to ideology is generous. My personal view is that it is based on greed and pure short-term self interest. There is nothing inherent in conservative ideology that justifies ignoring science or climate change. Even Margaret Thatcher supported action to stop climate change. Nor did they need to adopt an anti-action position to counter Labor, because until recently, Labor has equivocated far too much on action to stop climate change. Witness Qld Labor approving Adani’s uneconomic coal mine.

    The thing that explains Libberal/National policy is money. Mining magnates donate lots of it to right wing election funds. The quid pro quo is that there is no action on climate change, so they can go on selling as much coal, oul and gas as long as possible.

  14. EG
    You can add transport infrastructure to your grimly accurate list of policy failures. When I first started working getting funding for public transport projects, even though they were space and energy efficient, was difficult. Building roads was cheap, and motorist taxes made them self funding. Building railroads was expensive, they were inefficient, and required subsidy.

    Over times things have changed. Our road projcts have become far more expensive, due to rising land and services costs, and many recent freeway projects have BCRs well below one, while falling fuel excise revenue means road expenditure is subsidised. Rail projects have become cheaper in real terms, more standardised, more patronised, and much less subsidised. We can now build an LRT with the capacity of a six lane freeway for 2/3 the cost. Given they are also much more energy and emission efficient, it should be obvious what we should build. But no, we go on with the highest per capita rate of freeway construction in the OECD.

  15. Indeed, Socrates, transport infrastructure, (trains and presumably buses in your applied area and internalisation of transport noise pollution in project evaluation in my applied area) are further relevant examples.

  16. Ernestine
    Yes the same argument applies to funding for buses as well, though less so. In my experience conservative governments often fund busway projects not because they believe in their benefits, but because they are cheaper than rail projects with higher capacity and funding the BRT allows them to avoid funding the rail projects.

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