Sep 08, 2010 - 8:00am
By John Connor, CEO, The Climate Institute
Yesterday Australia took one step out of the quagmire of pollution politics in which we have been mired for many months now.
This is a quagmire in which scare campaigns and excessive claims for assistance from many of the big polluters influenced both the politics and the outcomes.
It is quagmire where proponents of strong action confused excessive industry assistance with locking in incentives to pollute and lost sight of the signal a price tag on pollution would have sent to reduce the economy’s dependence on pollution.
There is now a great opportunity to, as Rob Oakeshott said yesterday, apply the disinfectant of sunshine to many of the scare campaigns, the confusion and misrepresentation of the realities of what a transition to low pollution dependence means for Australia.
It was important in that context to see Tony Windsor highlight the fact that taking action on pollution and climate change can have significant benefits for rural and regional Australia.
This is a point that The Climate Institute and others consistently made during the campaign around the CPRS. Early last year we put out a report [see first attachment] on clean energy projects, planned or committed, which showed that billions of dollars and thousands of jobs could flow to local and regional communities because of action on clean energy and putting a limit and price tag on pollution.
This echoed an earlier report [see second attachment] that we had done with farmers’ federations and agribusinesses which also showed that harvesting clean energy, carbon farming and stewardship payments for land management can provide significant and additional revenue streams for regional Australia.
The other problem with being stuck in a quagmire is that you tend to lose focus on what is going on around you. Just days after the election campaign Lord Nicholas Stern gave a timely reminder that there is significant global action, particularly in Asia, South America and Europe and that there will be significant penalties for those countries that continue to seek to delay to action.
The Climate Institute met with independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, immediately after their meeting with Lord Stern and we put to them and to the other independents some key next steps.
Chief of these is getting a limit and a price tag on pollution in the life of the next Parliament but there are at least two other steps to get going building the jobs, skills and industries needed for the shift to a low pollution economy.
Now is the time to release the Prime Minister’s Energy Efficiency Task Group Report and to begin a process of implementation.
We also need to expose to sunlight the extent of global action and what that means for Australia’s targets and industry assistance claims. This should also reveal that, under bipartisan supported conditions, Australia’s commitments will need to be more than just the five percent reduction target. As Professor Ross Garnaut has said, Australia will be called on to do more.
Minority Government’s can be exciting and creative times. They will also be challenging times, there is no question. At the very least it will rebalance the power of argument against the power of advertising and confusion.
We have one foot out of the quagmire but it will take a collaborative effort to pull the other out and to really get moving on pollution and climate change. It is an opportunity not to be missed.
John Connor is CEO of The Climate Institute. 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.