Peace for our time ?

Amid the recent upsurge of leadership speculation, this time affecting the government, a crucial observation on the so-called National Energy Guarantee seems to have been missed.

No one thinks the NEG is a good policy: its selling point is the claim that it could resolve, once and for all, the political fight over climate and energy policy.  After the last few days, that claim has fallen in a heap. A few days after claiming the endorsement of his party room for the previous version of the NEG, Turnbull is doing an emergency rewrite of the NEG to stave off a rebellion and perhaps a challenge to his job.

This half-baked compromise, if it works at all, won’t resolve anything. There’s no target for emissions reductions, which might help get legislation through Parliament, but leaves the most important single issue for later. The already messy pricing system is to be complicated further by unspecified policies to reduce prices directly. And the denialists are still pushing for a publicly funded coal-fired power station.

Supposing this chimera somehow struggles into existence, it will last as long as the political stars with which it is aligned. If Turnbull loses to the right of his own party, the whole thing will be dumped in favor of policies driven by culture war concerns rather than economics, let alone climate. If Labor wins, they will need to dump this mess and start again, effectively from scratch.

I have in my mind a picture of Turnbull, descending the steps of a plane and waving a peace of paper while he announces “Peace for our Time”. I guess that can’t literally happen since the relevant meetings will all take place in Canberra and tarmac photo-ops are confined to state visits these days. But I doubt that Turnbull’s deal will last as long as Chamberlain’s did.

15 thoughts on “Peace for our time ?

  1. The thing that came out of yesterday was the fact of another limpid capitulation by Turnbull to the loonies holding him captive against the interests of the nation and humanity.

    For so long, Labor has been bagged and rightly for its failed carbon reduction legislation under Rudd, but after this, the LNP will never again be able to talk of Labor timidity after this monumental failure of theirs.

    For captive Turnbull the writing is now incontrovertibly on the wall, whether Dutton rolls him before or after the election is only moot.

  2. The major problem is we have pygmies as politicians. Take the absurd position of some who want ful scale public ownership of a new coal station.
    Is anyone out there arguing this would entail a permanent 60 year subsidy of power prices from that station at all?

    The best the ALP will do is an emissions intensity scheme as it has the best buck given the impact on prices.

    It will a long time until we see a price on carbon.

  3. Turnbull has previously said he will quit if they lose the next election and I think libs are in a panic as to who will then fund them. Gina Reinhardt seems to be accommodative, hiring ex MPs and funding the IPA and stuff, so it seems that libs are now tilting at a new windmill.

    It’s a crude assumption but we aren’t dealing with principled people.

  4. The corporate capitalists and neoliberals are happy about governmental paralysis. It was always their intention to sabotage effective government for the people so that corporations could run the country by donations and party obedience to the plutocrats.

    I feel our Australian governments these days are as ineffective as Italy’s notorious many party system. Clearly, political duopoly can be subverted too. Our major parties are too bought and suborned to govern for the populace. When will the people wake up?

    We fiddle while the barrier reef dies, the west turns to dust and bush-fire season starts in late winter.

  5. Recent studies show that “the combined energy and land-use system should deliver zero net anthropogenic emissions well before 2040 in order to assure the attainability of a 1.5C target by 2100.” To put that in context, most top climate scientists now feel that the 2C target is not safe. It will be too damaging.

    Hands up those who think we will reach zero net emissions by 2040. Nobody? I thought so. Okay, that means dangerous climate change is locked in, baked in by our system’s inability to change fast enough.

  6. “dangerous climate change is locked in, baked in by our system’s inability to change fast enough.”

    Sure, but there’s still a huge difference between 2 degrees and 4 degrees. So, what policy implications do you draw? That we should give up and do nothing?

    Relatedly, while it’s true that 2 degrees of warming will be damaging, the likely damage is comparable to lots of other problems that are locked in until 2040 and beyond: diseases, malnutrition, wars and so on. By contrast, 4 degrees of warming would be a bigger disaster than anything short of nuclear war and 6 degrees (which looked possible not so long ago) would probably wipe us out as a species.

  7. John, I agree there are dangers in being too alarmist. There are also dangers in being too complacent. You are not complacent but unfortunately it seems that the powers that be are complacent along with much of the general population. It seems we need a “salutary disaster” (as I call it) to generate real action. I don’t want to see such a disaster anymore than any sensible person but I fear that is what it will take to galvanize populations.

    There is a vast difference between 2C and 4C, I agree. I also agree that we should never give up. We have to fight to save what we can. I just fear that many are not taking the urgency of the climate emergency seriously enough. We should have had a strong carbon price (taxes and/or permits) at least 15 years ago. Still we do nothing. We should now have our economies on a statist “war footing”. This will take a a global effort as big as fighting a conventional world war. In other words, it’s an existential crisis.

    We cannot wait around for capitalist BAU to act. The market reacts too slowly to negative externalities, possibly even when they are priced much more correctly. The economy needs to be put on a conscription / requisition / rationing footing in some regards just as is done to win wars. Capitalism wastes resources on a massive scale. It’s astonishing to me that it is argued to capitalist economics leads to an efficient allocation of resources. The efficiency is within the economy only. The efficiency is not in the use of biosphere resources. The allocations of unfettered capitalism are not efficient with regard to natural limits.

    Thus I agree with people like Naomi Klein and modern socialist thinkers in the following respect. We can’t save the planet with our current form of capitalism. The system is the main obstacle to progress.

  8. Dutton is about to challenge and Turnbull is in more trouble than an alligator in a handbag factory, according to the media tonight. Abbott, Abetz and Andrews should be back in the cabinet under PM Dutton before the end of the end of the week. Now there’s a cheery thought.

    It takes a particular genius to lose the party leadership twice within a decade by mismanaging the same issue, a feat I don’t think even Billy Hughes accomplished. But there you have it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Malcolm Turnbull, the smartest person in the room.

  9. Turnbull has now taken the emissions targets completely out of the NEG. This is like one of those gangster movies where a soon-to-be victim of a mob hit pathetically pleads for his life. But instead of instilling pity in the audience, the pleading instills disgust.

  10. and now emissions has been taken out of the NEG.
    It is a dogs breakfast now.

    Imagine the ‘New; government commission a coal fired station. The ALP ask the PBO to tell them how much ongoing public subsidies would be, There would be plenty of others such as Gratten, Hugh Saddler, Frontier et al

    I have always thought those advocating such a stupid proposal merely did it on cultures wars n=knowing it will never happen. I have to admit I could very well be wrong

  11. The climate culture war in Australia, like the abortion culture war in the US, will never end. It will go on, and on, and on and on …

  12. The Chamberlain agreement lasted a lot longer. This situation is as if Chamberlain said to Hitler ‘We know you want Poland, so why don’t we put that in the agreement as well’. This chaotic governance is unbelievable.

  13. Turnbull “wins” against Dutton, 48 to 35. With such numbers it has to be a pyrrhic victory. It is tempting to think that 35 are pro-coal and gas climate science deniers and proud of it, whilst 48 are pro-coal and gas climate science deniers who are ashamed of it – but it’s difficult to actually know how many truly take the climate problem seriously since so few make their position public or expound their reasons out loud. Either way they share opposition to a transition to low emissions. Not one of them is willing to stand up and state unequivocally, on the public record, that it is necessary, let alone put up and support policy to advance that transition.

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