The Climate Group, one of the world’s biggest NGOs working in the climate space, is withdrawing from Australia, citing the “unfavourable” policy environment.
The Climate Group, which has offices in the US, China, Europe and India, founded its Australian offices in 2005. It has been heavily involved with federal and state governments in the development of policies on climate change and clean energy, including energy efficiency and electric vehicles, and hosted Queensland’s first climate summit.
However, the offices are to be closed, Climate Group CEO Mark Kenber said. “This decision has been made in the light of the increasingly challenging political environment for action on climate change in Australia, despite the exceptional efforts of our local representatives,” he said in an email.
The public withdrawal of the Climate Group reflects a private despair felt by many NGOs in Australia with the impending Federal poll, likely to deliver a thumping majority to the Coalition on September 14, and the steady dismantling of climate, clean energy and environmental initiatives by the conservative governments elected in recent years in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
Pointedly, the Climate Group said it would continue to work with the (Labor) government of South Australia, which Kenber said had provided “clear evidence of the low carbon opportunity that is within Australia’s grasp and that can be realized when the right political leadership and policy frameworks are in place.”
At the Federal level, the Coalition has vowed to dismantle the carbon price, the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Commission – leading some to wonder if the Coalition believed in the science of climate change at all. That was a direct question put to Greg Hunt at a function hosted by the Carbon Markets Institute of Australia last month. But even if Hunt accepts the science, the presence and influence of several dozen climate change sceptics has led many to question its policies.
One of those most prominent sceptics, the Liberal Senator Corey Bernardi, suggested on Monday that the Coalition’s Dirct Action policy, including its Green Army, was designed to do no more than “clean up the waterways” and plant more trees. He said he did not accept the science of man’s contribution to climate change.
Labor continues its attack on the Coalition, with Climate Change, Industry and Innovation minister Greg Combet on Wednesday describing Direct Action L as one of the “poorest examples” of public policy formulation ever seen in Australia.
“Mr Abbott wants to slug taxpayers so he can subsidise big polluters for projects they are already undertaking, without achieving any significant reductions in carbon pollution,” he said. “The Opposition simply wants to socialise the carbon pollution problem by imposing the costs on taxpayers rather than on the polluters themselves.”
Combet ask accused the Coalition of threatening banks to stop making joint investments with the CEFC, and threatening businesses that they will cancel binding contracts and “acquire their property rights without compensation.”
CEFC CEO Oliver Yates has again rejected demands that the agency not make loans, saying it was likely to allocate up to $800 million of loans to companies before the September election.
Yates told a Senate estimates committee that it would be “imprudent” to tell counter-parties that a commercial deal was on hold as a result of unknown external factors, such as the result of an election.