Foundations for a low pollution, clean energy economy Opinion Article

Nov 10, 2010 - 3:48pm

Originally published in Crikey on 10 November 2010.

By John Connor, CEO, The Climate Institute

There’s a lot of heat in the Australian polity at the moment, but not much light. Yesterday’s mid-year economic forecast shows there’s also a fair amount of heat in the Australian economy. However, as the Department of Climate Change's  'Red Book'  warned the incoming government, this growth is coming with increasing carbon pollution.

Our economy belches over half a billion tonnes of this pollution annually and that is growing in the tens of thousands of tonnes each year.

Dealing with this pollution and climate change is a pivotal battleground for our polity, our society and our economy. In the political bear pit a heady brew of confusion, opportunism, soul-searching and ambition still clouds the prospects for substantive action.

As federal parliament’s multi-party climate change committee gathers today for its second meeting and ahead of government and green roundtables, Australia’s unique alliance of community, labour, environment and research groups, the Southern Cross Climate Coalition (SCCC), released a statement: Stronger, Fairer, Healthier - Four Foundations for a Low Pollution, Clean Energy Economy.

Our groups -- The Climate Institute, ACTU, ACF and ACOSS -- share a vision of sustainability, fairness and prosperity for all Australians. Achieving this vision requires achievement of key foundations and principles as we face up the challenges of pollution and climate change.

While we look forward to discussion on the precise means to achieve a sustainable low pollution, clean energy economy, it is clear that success will be built on four foundations: reducing our economy’s dependence on pollution; ensuring fair and inclusive action; unlocking clean energy jobs, and strengthening international action.

Our statement also contains key principles for action that build on these foundations, key among which is a national carbon pollution limit legislated in 2011and starting in 2012. The limits and policy should begin the decline in Australia’s domestic pollution by 2013 and have flexibility to achieve at least 25% cuts on 2000 levels by 2020 if we can achieve more ambitious global action -- targets still supported by the ALP and the Liberal Party.

Our recent research and numerous other analyses show that Australia is lagging competitors in pollution pricing and clean energy investments. Further delay will not only mean increased pollution and larger costs of delayed action, but loss of opportunities for Australia to prosper from its abundant clean energy resources.

If the various political forums are to build robust community support then deliberations will need to focus not just on achieving a pollution price.
As the SCCC statement outlines, it will need to cut Australia’s pollution soon and grow the jobs and prosperity in clean energy, carbon farming and other low pollution areas of the economy. It will need to do this by ensuring low income households and affected workers are looked after, as well as making sure we help build international ambition.

It’s a challenge but hopefully our overheating polity can harness that energy to achieve real outcomes.

 

John Connor

John Connor was CEO of The Climate Institute from 2007 to March 2017. Whilst qualified as a lawyer, John has spent over twenty years working in a variety of policy and advocacy roles with organisations including World Vision, Make Poverty History, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the NSW Nature Conservation Council. Since joining The Climate Institute in 2007 John has been a leading analyst and commentator on the rollercoaster that has been Australia’s domestic and international carbon policy and overseen the Institute’s additional focus on institutional investors and climate risk. John has also worked on numerous government and business advisory panels.

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