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.