Politics from another planet eclipse policy Media Release

Sep 05, 2013 - 9:44am

A lopsided political focus on the costs of climate action has eclipsed discussion or development of policy on climate risks or opportunities from low carbon solutions, said The Climate Institute today as it released its final Pollute-o-meter analysis.

“This election’s climate debate has been politics from another planet, with overwhelming focus on the costs of action rather than its opportunities and no focus on the costs of climate inaction,” said John Connor, CEO The Climate Institute.

“While both major parties have clarified or made some progress, neither made significant moves during the election campaign with the ALP remaining at 2.5 stars out of 5. The Coalition made a marginal improvement to 1.5 stars out of 5.”

“Andrew Wilkie was the big mover of the campaign after detailing his policies and moving to 3.5 stars out of 5, while the Greens retained their comprehensive ranking of 5 from 5.” 

“Apart from a welcome $9 million for the National Adaptation Research Facility from the Coalition, there is still a gaping hole from both major parties when it comes to preparing Australians for the unavoidable costs of climate change.”

“The costs for food, insurance premiums, emergency services and other essentials will continue to rise with the growing intensity of bushfires, floods, and other climate impacts if Australia doesn’t do more to protect its national climate interest in avoiding 2 degrees warming above pre-industrial levels.”

Connor added: “While the ALP has made some references to the economic opportunities that will come from harnessing Australia’s wind, solar and other renewable energy resources, its primary focus has been on the cost of living benefits of bringing forward emissions trading by one year.” 

“The ALP has referred to the competitiveness issues that arise from the reality of significant if still insufficient low carbon action in other countries, but neither party has seriously tackled this as an issue of carbon and energy productivity.”

As in previous elections, The Climate Institute translated analysis of parties’ policies into an interactive online tool rating  their performance on a star system. The final ratings, which can be found at www.2013pollute-o-meter.org.au, are:

  • The ALP - 2.5/5 stars. The ALP receives positive rating for legislated emission limits, carbon pricing, Kyoto Protocol ratification and a stable Renewable Energy Target (RET). But the ALP has more work to do on energy efficiency and preparing Australia for increasing climate impacts.
  • The Coalition –1.5/5 stars. The Coalition receives some positive ratings from support for emission targets, a national adaptation facility, a carbon penalty, and the RET. However, details are scant and some policies such as the review of the RET in 2014 create significant uncertainty for clean energy investments.
  • The Greens – 5/5 stars. The Greens have comprehensive policies across all areas.
  • Australian Katter Party (KAP) and Democratic Labor Party (DLP) -0/5 stars. The KAP support for expanding the RET gave it a slight boost, but not enough to move its overall score to 0.5/5stars. Both the KAP and DLP lack comprehensive policy to reduce Australia’s dependence on carbon pollution or prepare for climate impacts.
  • Andrew Wilkie – 3.5/5 stars. Andrew Wilkie supports strong emission and renewable energy targets; ratification of Australia’s second Kyoto target; carbon pricing, and; requirements for future government projects to comply with climate risk scenarios. However, more work is needed on energy efficiency and preparing for climate impacts.
  • Senator Nick Xenophon - 0.5/5 stars. Senator Xenophon receives some positive ratings on energy efficiency and emission goals but they lack sufficient detail. While his proposed policy includes a carbon price, it does not include a legislated absolute emission limits on major emitters. Support for a 2014 RET review creates significant uncertainty for clean energy investments and there are no policies on preparing Australia for climate impacts.

The Climate Institute analysis is based on priority policies as laid out in theManaging the Unavoidable while Avoiding the Unmanageable policy brief.  In 2010 the ALP had 1 and a half stars out of five and the Coalition just half a star.

During the campaign, as it has in prior elections, The Climate Institute also released analysis of the pollution reduction potential of the policies of the major parties. In 2013 this included an assessment of the current Government policy, done with the World Resources Institute.

Using data from Sinclair Knight Merz and Monash University, The Climate Institute also modelled the emissions reduction potential of the Coalition against the current, legislated framework.

That analysis concluded that the ALP, with its support for a flexible limit and price on carbon pollution, could achieve 25 per cent reductions on 2000 levels by 2020 and continued but insufficient reductions thereafter. The Coalition’s policies, however, would see an increase of 9 per cent by 2020 with continued increases thereafter.

In 2010 the Coalition ranked better than the ALP, but both policy sets led to 2020 emission increases, not reductions, of 8 and 19 per cent respectively.

“Despite speculation to the contrary and though it was muted, both major parties maintained their bipartisan support for 2020 emissions reduction targets of 5 to 25 per cent below 2000 levels,” said Connor. 

“The targets of up to 25 per cent reductions are commitments made not only to Australians but also, with Coalition support, to other countries by inclusion in international agreements.”

“Our analysis, and that of all other publicly available analysis, sees the Coalition falling short of the 5 to 25 per cent pollution reduction targets with its policies. Filling the deficit by purchasing more Australian reductions would cost $4 to 15 billion extra but the Coalition has declared no more financing would be forthcoming.” 

“The Coalition may be able to achieve the smaller target with far reaching extra regulation but the primary credibility test of all parties’ policies is the ability to achieve the stronger 25 per cent target. If the Coalition should win the election this means they should reveal more details on their policy and its potential effectiveness before they repeal the carbon laws.”

“If elected, the Coalition should reveal before repeal,” concluded Connor.

For more information   
John Connor  | CEO, The Climate Institute | 02 8239 6299
Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director, The Climate Institute | 02 8239 6299

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