Following his gutting of CSIRO and ARENA, Malcolm Turnbull has ransacked the Climate Change Authority. Once an institution at the heart of politics charged with prioritising science and depoliticising climate policy, it has been turned into an instrument which ducks its mandate, suppresses climate science and is politically partisan. Its latest report is a cop out.
It is a sad end. I am personally deeply distressed to see the era of credible science based advice from the Climate Change Authority come to an end and with it the respect that it had garnered from the wider community.
With its reputation in tatters, it will drag on as another impediment to the radical action that addressing climate change requires but its days as an agreed and respected arbiter of what the science requires is over. I pay tribute to Dr Clive Hamilton and Professor David Karoly for their passionate adherence to what the science requires and for having stayed the course.
The Climate Change Authority was an important new institution in determining climate policy on Australia. The Greens argued for its establishment during the negotiation of the Clean Energy Package with the Gillard Government.
We had observed the role the Climate Council had played in the UK in recommending targets to Government. It served two critical roles. First it recommended to Parliament greenhouse gas emission reduction targets consistent with what the science required to keep global warming to less than 2’degrees. Secondly, by doing so it depoliticised the targets allowing all parties on every side of politics to embrace them in the face of opposition from vested interests whether they be unions or big business.
In the Australian context, the Labor Party and the Australian Greens had not been able to agree on an appropriate emission reduction target. At the UNFCCC COP meeting in Bali in 2007, the world agreed developed countries should reduce their emissions by between 25-40% by 2020. Australia under the Rudd Government disagreed and forced the removal of the 25-40% target from the agreed text to a footnote.
PM Rudd then declared Australia’s target to be 5%. The Australian Greens determined that Australia as a developed nation should adopt the 40% target and begin a serious transition to a low carbon economy arguing that this would be less costly or as disruptive as a forced rapid transition later.
In the Multi Party Climate Change Committee established under the Minority Gillard Government, both parties and independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, together with experts like Ross Garnaut, all agreed a mechanism was required to break the impasse between what the science required and what the politics would allow. The Climate Change Authority was that mechanism.
It was agreed that an emissions trading scheme would be legislated with a fixed price period of three years transitioning to a floating price by 2015. That would enable serious emissions reduction to begin while a new institution, The Climate Change Authority got on with the job of determining what that target should be and to recommend that to Government in time to be legislated to enable the transition to a floating price.
It was essential that the work of the Authority be scientifically credible and politically independent or else its recommendations and target would not depoliticise climate as is required for the parliament and nation to progress realistic, timely, climate policy.
By stacking the Climate Change Authority Board, Malcolm Turnbull has ransacked the independent arbiter and politicised the formal advice given to Parliament. He has destroyed yet another critical policy institution when we need it most. Who will now credibly advise the Australian Parliament on what action the science demands?