We can't save the world without common ground Opinion Article

Jun 29, 2015 - 8:00am

This is a joint opinion article by the following organisations: The Climate Institute, Australian Aluminium Council, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Energy Supply Association of Australia, Investor Group on Climate Change and WWF Australia. This article first appeared in The Australian on 29 June 2015.

With all countries gearing up for the Paris climate conference and the next stage of the global fight against climate change, it's time to build consensus on the goal and design of Australian policies that will reduce carbon emissions while maintaining and increasing our prosperity.

Australia's main political parties all support the international goal of keeping global warming to less than 2°C. That immense challenge will require deep and global reductions in carbon emissions, and Australia will need to play its fair part.

We have formed the Australian Climate Roundtable, an unprecedented alliance of business, environment, union, social and research groups, including the Australian Aluminium Council, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Council of Social Service, ACTU, Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Energy Supply Association of Australia, Investor Group on Climate Change, The Climate Institute and World Wildlife Fund Australia.

Our broad coalition has come together because climate change and climate policy affect our missions and members.

We believe Australia should help avoid warming of 2°C or more and the serious economic, social and environmental impacts that unconstrained climate change will have on Australia. Avoiding unconstrained climate change will provide important benefits and opportunities to Australia. Emissions reductions on the necessary scale, however, will also require substantial change and present significant challenges for Australia as well as other countries.

Well-designed policy will be important to manage the challenges along the way. Delayed, unpredictable and piecemeal action will increase the costs and challenges of achieving the goals and maximising the opportunities. We also know policies won't work if they don't last and stay on investors' radars. The foundations of climate policy need broad and durable support, and we all have a role in building it.

Despite our different constituencies and missions, we have found considerable common ground. That agreement is captured in the joint principles for climate policy that we release today at www.australianclimateroundtable.org.au. The principles go to what climate policy should achieve and how it should ideally work.

Achieving our objectives will require policies that are capable of achieving deep reductions in Australia's net emissions, in line with our overall goal; operate at least cost to the domestic economy; maximise the benefits of action; and remain efficient as circumstances change and Australia's emissions reduction goals evolve. Policy should be able to reduce emissions wherever it is efficient across Australia's economy, while also making use of international abatement options to ease the transition. Policy should prevent the unnecessary loss of competitiveness by Australia's trade-exposed industries. We recognise the strategic importance of the energy sector, while acknowledging that all parts of the economy will need to reduce emissions significantly to achieve our goal.

The costs and benefits of climate policy should be spread fairly within the Australian community, ensuring the most vulnerable are protected. Systematic action is needed to improve resilience to the climate impacts we face now and the range of future climate scenarios we face.

This has been a tumultuous area of policy development on a major challenge for Australia that isn't going away.

We thought it important to reset the objectives, principles and key priorities to make the next phase of policy development as civil and constructive as possible.

Our principles don't end debate or prescribe a single solution. They set out common ground on which more detailed policy can be built.

We encourage the Australian community to consider these principles and work to ensure that climate policy meets our nation's economic, environmental and social needs.

Miles Prosser - Executive Director, Australian Aluminium Council
Cassandra Goldie - Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council of Social Service
Ged Kearney - President, Australian Council of Trade Unions
Kelly O’Shanassy - Chief Executive Officer, Australian Conservation Foundation
Innes Willox - Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group
Jennifer Westacott - Chief Executive. Business Council of Australia
Matthew Warren - Chief Executive Officer, Energy Supply Association of Australia
Frank Pegan - Chairman, Investor Group on Climate Change
John Connor - Chief Executive Officer. The Climate Institute
Dermot O’Gorman - Chief Executive Officer, WWF Australia

The full Australian Climate Roundtable joint principles for climate policy, joint opinion article and associated infographics, factsheets and explainers can be found here.
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