Climate policy becomes trench warfare, once again | RenewEconomy

Climate policy becomes trench warfare, once again

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The release of Labor’s climate policy has led immediately to a resumption of World War I style trench warfare. It is a disgrace

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The release of Labor’s climate policy has led immediately to a resumption of World War I style trench warfare.

The opening salvo, the pre-prepared advertisements and admonishments, was blasted off within hours, to be followed by tunnelling under the Labor trenches, minefields and more misery for both major Parties and for the population they are elected to serve. The misery is the suffering from current and future ill health which could be prevented if progress could be made in a bilateral, constructive manner.

Labor’s policy has significant health implications because health is closely linked to energy policy and it is in this light that Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) makes comment. Our profession is reminded that WHO regards climate change as the biggest health threat of the present century. Our involvement is therefore a vital professional commitment to the health care of communities and patients.

Good energy policy has the ability to provide the co-benefits of reduced air pollution which contributes to death and illness from heart and lung disease in thousands of Australians while at the same time reducing green house emissions which result in climate change and thousands of deaths world wide and many in Australia from increasing storm, flood and fire.

Labor has made several good policy commitments

The policy confirms a 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. However there is a trap in the word ‘net’ for it doesn’t end emission production in 2050, it only balances it with removal of emissions by methods not yet developed.

DEA supports a cap on pollution to “create new opportunities for Australian firms to trade and engage with other ETS jurisdictions – already 40 per cent of the world’s economy”. An effective ETS allows us to be part of effective international effort to reduce emissions instead of being the pariah on the outer. An ETS should be regarded as a preventative health measure by facilitating a transition away from coal and gas to renewable energy.

The Strategic Industries Task Force and the Reserve Fund of $300m is particularly important because it brings the expertise and resources of a federal government into the equation and will stimulate some indolent states into transition from coal. These measures will avoid the unemployment of transition, itself an important health hazard in workers and their families.

Some State governments have failed to recognise the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources if climate change is to be controlled. In the case of Port Augusta where 4 years ago the community and Doctors for the Environment Australia recognised the need for transition on health grounds because of air pollution, there has been state government silence and inaction until quite recently. How bad will it be in the Hunter without such support?

But there are significant omissions

Will a Labor government approve new coal mines, for example one near Townsville? This is promoted by the local Liberal member and presumably by a state Labor government that supports fossil fuel development unreservedly. What is the Labor position on international calls for no new coal mines?

Unconventional gas, a growing cause of emissions and a potential cause of ill health is not addressed. Is a page missing in the released policy or is the matter too difficult to discuss in the face of the excesses of the Queensland government and the suffering of those in the Tara gas field?

Finally the silence on coal exports is disappointing in view of the increasing urgency of mitigation. Is the Queensland government in denial about the cause of Barrier Reef demise and would Labor in power approve Carmichael even now?

For 10 years now DEA has used the following statement in letters to politicians. ”We consider the issue to be so serious that our message to you is that climate change must be tackled on a bipartisan basis and we ask you to work towards this as a parliamentary team in the same way that our profession works in concert on a sick patient in the intensive care unit.”

For ten years now the trenches have moved to-and-fro for a few yards with no truce and no help for humanity. In our terms this is medical negligence. On this basis the 1918-type truce will come only when the nation is exhausted and suffering economically from failure to adopt the revolution to renewable energy. It is a disgrace.

Those in the government who fired the opening salvo yesterday would be wise to note the views on the Business Council of Australia.

Dr David Shearman AM. is Hon Secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia Policy on Climate Change and health is at  

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  1. suthnsun 4 years ago

    Medical negligence implies sueable

  2. howardpatr 4 years ago

    Cayman Turnbull – Mad Monk Abbott the Second.

    Next think we will have is Cayman Turnbull appointing Maurice Newman as his climate change and renewable energy adviser.

  3. JeffJL 4 years ago

    Labor are proposing what is politically possible. Go too far and we get the same Luddites for another three years. Thankfully the LNP are that bad that Labor are able to go this far this long before an election.

  4. john 4 years ago

    I have written to both leaders in the last few weeks, asking them to make a joint statement of cooperation on this matter.
    Without both major parties moving in the same direction there is the problem of politicization of the issue.
    Do i see this happening? I hope so perhaps not in the short term, but perhaps in the next governments 3 year term and that should be the goal.

  5. John Englart 4 years ago

    I have read Labor’s policy and concurr that is a step in the right direction, but as this article says, there are large holes or silences, in it.
    1. not a word on the need for a moratorium on new coal. Both the USA and China have announced 3 year moratoriums on new coal this year, but from Australia silence.
    2. silence on the growth of emissions from export coal which dwarf any local mitigation action we might take
    3. Silence on exploration and development of Coal Seam Gas and oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight, both unconventional fuel sources we cannot afford to develop (See McGlade and Ekins 2015)
    4. Silence on pre-2020 ambition. Do you remember PM Rudd took a range of 2020 targets to Copenhagen in 2009 with the higher two targets conditional on certain circumstances being met (such as a new global agreement)? Those conditional targets are still registered with the UNFCCC. The intermediate (15%), if not the top Target (25%) circumstances have clearly been met with even the CCA saying so in 2014, yet the Labor policy is silent and implies we will stick with the unconditional 5% by 2020 target.
    5. No mention of fossil fuel subsidies. I wasn’t expecting anything on this as Labor considers this politically unfeasible, but Labor could have announced a slow phase-out which would have been a positive move.

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