2015 Budget confirms closure for climate, clean energy institutions

Print Friendly

Just a few months ago, the newly constituted and Republican-dominated US Senate was asked to vote on a motion that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.”

They voted against it. By a slim majority, 50-49,  the senior conservative legislators in US Congress collectively declared that, well, climate science is crap.

In Australia’s ruling Coalition, that view is noisily shared by Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s closest advisors, such as Maurice (it’s all a UN plot) Newman and Dick (I’m not a climate skeptic, I just don’t accept the science) Warburton, and of course some rogue members of parliament such as Barnaby (it’s cold down here) Joyce.

Abbott, the man who made the “climate science is crap” phrase his own, doesn’t like to repeat it so much in public these days. Indeed, he has in environment minister Greg Hunt a man whose principal role seems to be Minister for Saying That The Coalition Really Takes Climate Change Seriously, despite its policies that suggest the opposite.

Joe Hockey: "Utterly offensive"

Joe Hockey: “Utterly offensive”

The budget handed down on Tuesday night by Treasurer Joe (I don’t like wind turbines) Hockey continues the recent trend of Coalition policy documents that sweeps the idea that Australia should be acting – urgently or otherwise – on climate action under the carpet.

The energy white paper, and even the discussion paper on emission reduction targets, assumed that the world would continue on business-as-usual and do nothing more to reduce emissions from a trajectory of warming the world by an average of 4°C, a scary outcome, scientists say, for many and particularly Australia.

In Australia, the government does not vote against climate science, it just ignores it. There is hardly any mention of climate change in the budget documents, apart from the Coalition’s continued determination to remove the phrase from the government’s lexicon, and to dismantle the remaining initiatives of Labor’s Clean Energy Package, presumably when if and when it wins the election in late 2016/17.

The budget papers confirm that spending for the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Climate Change Authority will be halted in fiscal 2016/17. Perversely, the CCA gains an extra year, presumably to conduct the nth review of the renewable energy target that the Coalition promised just a month ago it wouldn’t do. That uncertainty will continue to undermine investment in large-scale renewables in Australia.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which funds emerging technologies such as wave energy, solar and storage, and off-grid systems, will also be absorbed back into the department and defunded.

Climate research is cut again, with National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility added to the list of climate and clean energy agencies to be wound up in 2017.

The only major spending on climate is the controversial Emissions Reduction Fund, the centerpiece of Direct Action, which still has another $1.7 million to spend on purchasing abatement from polluters, but no particular target to meet. Hunt insists that Australia will meet its 5 per cent reduction target, but no one else believes him.

The Green Army gets a $179 million kick along to pick up litter and do other worthy things that a conservative regards as environmental. That is $73 million less than had been planned, so that the government can spend an extra $100 million on the reef and “boosting water quality”.

That was the most positive thing that environmental groups could find in the budget. Mostly they lamented the climate and clean energy blindspot of the current regime. The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility is added to the list of climate and clean energy agencies to be wound up in 2017

The biggest gripe of environmental groups was the retention of the Fuel Tax Credit Scheme, which they say amounts to a $7 billion per year federal government subsidy for diesel consumption.

“Motorists will continue to pay 38.9 cents and more in tax for every litre of fuel they buy, while some of the world’s largest mining companies, such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore Xstrata, pay no tax at all on the fuel they use,” the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Kelly O’Shanassy said.

The ACF is also concerned about a $5 billion fund to be established by the Abbott government for developments in infrastructure in the northern regions, including railways, ports and power facilities. The ACF says it could turn out to be a “dirty energy finance corporation”.

“Even Abbott Government climate contrarian poster-boy Bjorn Lomborg has called to end fossil fuel handouts,” said Environment Victoria’s Mark Wakeham.

Newly elected Greens leader Richard di Natale described the 2015 Budget as a “visionless, small-minded document.”

“This budget’s biggest failure is what isn’t there. There’s no vision, no direction and no new sources of revenue from the big end of town,” Senator Di Natale said.

John Connor, the CEO of The Climate Institute, went further: “This budget is a continued assault on climate and clean energy programs and institutions. This budget locks in the benefits that polluters now have to continue polluting for free, while loading up taxpayers and a supposedly stressed budget with the task of paying for emissions reductions.”  

RenewEconomy Free Daily Newsletter

Share this:

  • mike flanagan

    Thanks Giles! A boondoggle of a budget that paves the way to an election before either the El Nino arrives, or to avoid embarrassment, if the Paris COP assembly shows some positive movement to an internationally approved ETS.
    Watch the polls to gauge Abbott’s measure of the budget’s success, not the national welfare or economy !

  • Chris Fraser

    Ha ha … unelectable !

  • Pedro

    Sad to say this, but that was a poll winning budget. Abbott with all his barnacles seemed to be very absent and left it up to big cuddly Joe to give us the ‘good news’

  • Blair Donaldson

    Does this bring us closer to the day when Australia faces trade sanctions for its lack of action on climate?

  • Ron Horgan

    The labor Party should be able to cobble together a pretty good alternative approach emphasizing the job creation of renewables.
    If an election is in the wind this should be soon.
    Fixing unemployment will be a huge improvement all round

    • lin

      “The Labor Party should be able to”
      Unfortunately under the current management, there are lots of things that they should be able to do that they either cannot or choose not to do, including opposing mandatory data retention and agreeing to a big cut in RET. With decisions like that, they are fighting with Abbott over who is more unelectable. My vote is currently with neither.

      • Blair Donaldson

        Agreed, at the federal level at least, they are a bit like a neutered cat or dog.

        • lin

          You are correct about the federal thing, though possibly more glove puppet than autonomous living creature.
          The Vic Labor government is showing some promise. Fingers crossed for Qld too.

  • Rob G

    Their ignorance marches proudly on! Their final mistake will be assuming that Australian voters don’t care about climate change.

    • Blair Donaldson

      Rob, based on a few Facebook forums I have visited lately, the self-interest and conspiracy theory BS reigns supreme. Any little bit of cherry picking or denial is preferable to established science. Unfortunately the evidence for climate change or the benefits of renewables comes a very distant second to ignorance and stupidity – even worse, these people know they are talking nonsense but don’t seem to care. Anything that saves them having to seriously think about these subjects seems to be fine by them. It’s like a large percentage of the population is in denial or on some sort of mind altering drug that renders them incapable of reasoning clearly.

      • Rob G

        The climate change concern for voters does ebb and flow, but when I last looked at an article about most important to voters, in Australia, climate change was back in the top 5 and becomingl increasingly more important. I suspect in a strange kind of way, the hostility this government has to action may be helping to galvanise public opinion. Had they just got on with building renewables and setting sensible targets then attention would move to other things.

        Voters will ultimately vote selfishly, but somehow climate change and a shift to a renewable future affects cost etc. That said, I do believe that the public shouldn’t need to be educated on it to have governments act, but when resistance festers then people start to learn what’s actually happening. Just recently ‘The Project’ had a very nice summary of Abbott’s destruction of the RET. I do have the feeling that people, while largely ignorant, are starting to understand what this government is up to.

        Either way, the inaction on climate change is just one of many big nails already in their coffin. Even the latest round of vote buying is being seen as just that “vote buying”.

        I will feel a great despair if these idiots get back into power – as will many.