Energy white paper latest wrecking ball for climate framework in Australia | RenewEconomy

Energy white paper latest wrecking ball for climate framework in Australia

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In last 18 months, agencies established to assist Australia deal with single greatest threat to our time have been disbanded, attacked, and defunded.

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white paperIn just over 18 months the Abbott government has swung a wrecking ball into the climate framework in Australia.

In the last 18 months, agencies established for the sole purpose of assisting Australia deal with the single greatest threat to our time have been disbanded, attacked, and defunded.

In a year and a half, the framework that was established to future-proof the economy has been dismantled, taking down jobs, investment and future trading opportunities with it.

As a blunt reminder, underpinning Australia’s climate framework a year and a half ago we had:
1. A price on carbon
2. The Climate Change Commission
3. The Renewable Energy Target
4. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
5. The Clean Energy Council (CEFC)
6. The Climate Change Authority
7. The Clean Energy Regulator

Now the price on carbon, which was never going to see a lamb roast reach $100 and impacted very little on Australian households is gone, along with the reduction in pollution it provided.

The Climate Change Commission, established to provide independent, accurate information on all aspects of climate change, including an emissions reduction target, has been dissolved.

The CEFC and ARENA are next on the chopping board. The role of the clean energy regulator has been reduced to largely support the Emissions Reduction Fund, widely recognised as the weakest form of climate response.

The Climate Change Authority and the RET are still limping along, with only an independent Senate there to save them. The Abbott government has done as much damage as it can, causing industry uncertainty and shedding jobs and investment with its failure to support these bodies.

Abbott insists that he “believes in” climate change; as though it were the toothfairy – a story to keep the voters placated while he sneaks in and steals the coins from under their pillows.

His actions to date have proved he believes the opposite. Not only has he trashed an effective climate framework, he has made Australia a laughing stock by trying to keep climate off the G20 agenda; induced the French government and others in the international community to urge him to commit to setting strong post-2020 targets before the COP21 in Paris; and made strange statements about coal being good for humanity.

The energy white paper, meant to establish Australia’s future energy markets, almost entirely ignores climate change, a major driver of what those future energy markets will be.

The paper supports brown coal – one of the dirtiest, most inefficient and polluting energy sources we have.

Rather than acknowledge the commitments to shift away from importing Australian fossil fuels by our international trading partners, it seeks to create new markets in developing countries – those who would be much better served by renewable energy micro-grids which have proven to be cheaper, cleaner and more reliable in Bangladesh, China and India.

Where those trading partners are investing heavily in developing clean energy technologies, the Abbott government seeks to dismantle the Renewable Energy Target, choosing as its favoured option a target that is more expensive for consumers (ie. all of us) and saves the big energy companies cash.

It should have been apparent back at the G20, when India, China and the US committed to reducing their emissions, and supported the establishment of a carbon budget that the world has shifted significantly in its attitudes to climate change.

Unfortunately not. At a time when countries the world over are working towards low-carbon economies, the Abbot government has released an energy paper more at home in the 1990’s when fossil fuels boomed and no-one could get enough of Australian coal.

The Abbott government will go down in history as taking a wrecking ball to the climate framework in Australia. Not even the Howard government made as many backward steps on climate change. If the Energy White Paper symbolises anything, it symbolises the final nails in the coffin of a climate framework in Australia.

Dr Stephen Bygrave is CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions and Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Environmental Studies at UNSW.

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  1. David McKay 5 years ago

    So what did we expect we were going to get?
    They pay Dr Karl to promote the IGR, telling us we need innovation & the new job opportunities that brings, while they are de-funding research/science & killing off new industries like renewable energy.
    Coal, & some gas, is their only “energy vision”. Nothing else matters. Oh, they do keep throwing the nuclear option around when they need a distraction.
    With Labours current poor performance, Abbott & crew may just get another 3 years after 2016. Imagine what they can do then!!

    • john 5 years ago

      I think you are correct Abbott will get another 3 years.
      It really does not matter what has been done or said it is all about the message an mate the message is simple ” The government I lead will not impost you with more costs”
      No one cares frankly about their kids future it is all about me.
      Myopic yes such is life.
      We live in Australia the land where you just throw out the window of your car which is very inefficient I may add the bottle you got from the pub.
      Kind of summarises the low level attitude of Australians who have no idea about the wider perceptive how to change this is a impossible problem.
      Do I see a change?

      • Rob G 5 years ago

        I don’t see Abbott winning the next election. There is a large storm brewing for him, Labor will not hold back in reminding voters of all the broken promises, hidden agenda’s and captain’s calls. The LNP need to switch leaders pronto if they want to have any chance. The polls have been 54% preference for Labor for some time now (only RM news poll gives Abbott a closer margin – and nobody trusts that!)

        There are enough lessons in history to tell us that when an extreme political position is taken, where a ganging up and silencing of businesses/society causes voter backlash that is so strong that we end up with the opposite of what that government sort to destroy. We may, I believe see a ramping up of renewable energy and climate change action not yet seen in Australia. As an example of voter backflip I look to the US and see Obama (America’s first black president – as we all know) followed Abbott’s political twin, George W Bush as an indicator of what will happen our election.

        Momentum is building, just look at VIC and QLD, they were largely lost as a direct Abbott backlash. And with NSW, Braid is the polar opposite of Abbott. The 2016 federal election will be a total wipeout, all Shorten needs to be is a sensible alternative (Let Abbott do all the talking).

  2. Mark Maiden 5 years ago

    Please keep up the good work, as I am sure this
    must get quite frustrating writing such dismal news about our government.

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