The Turnbull government’s recent pitch for new, “clean” coal-fired power generation has been slammed by Australian ethics professor Clive Hamilton, in a letter announcing his immediate resignation from the Climate Change Authority, over what he descries as the Coalition’s “perverse” and “deeply dishonest” approach to climate and energy policy.
The letter, addressed to federal energy and environment minister Josh Frydneberg, says the Turnbull government’s renewed interest “in supporting, and even subsidising, the construction of a number of new coal-fired power plants” could only mean it had “abandoned all pretence of taking climate change seriously.”
And for the Coalition to take this stance after learning that 2016 was the hottest year on record globally was “perverse, to say the least,” Hamilton added.
“No government remotely concerned about the impacts of a warming globe on the health, lives and wellbeing of Australians could even consider such a path,” the letter continues.
“You and the Prime Minister are in effect saying to the world that Australia’s share of the burden of limiting warming to 2°C must now be carried by other countries, including poor ones. That is unconscionable.”
Hamilton, like others before him, also points out that building new coal-fired power generation of any sort would make the Turnbull government’s “already weak” 2030 emissions reduction target “unattainable.”
“No government that describes the dirtiest for of electricity using the deeply dishonest term ‘clean coal’, invented by a PR company for the coal industry, can be believed when it says it wants to reduce Australia’s emissions,” the letter says.
This is not the first time that Hamilton, a highly respected ethicist from Charles Sturt University, has spoken out against the Turnbull government’s approach to climate action, or dissented from the views of the CCA – originally set up as an independent statutory authority, but more recently stacked in favour of the Coalition’s softly softly approach.
Last year, Hamilton stopped short of resigning from the body, after refusing – along with climate scientist David Karoly – to sign off the latest CCA report to government, and instead releasing their own “Minority Report”, pushing more ambitious climate targets.
In comments at the time, Hamilton criticised the CCA for shaping its report to suit the political environment, rather than basing it on the best available scientific and economic evidence.
“When the CCA was established it was made very clear in the legislation that it is independent,” he said. “We don’t believe that it’s the role of the authority to thread a political needle, to try to create something, craft a report that will suit the particularities of the cross-bench of the current parliament.
“Our report is based very firmly on the science,” he added. “Moreover, it is based directly on the recommendations of the climate change authority itself in the very first report of this review, which came out a year ago, a year before there was a change-over in the membership of the CCA.”
Whether the Turnbull government even registers Hamilton’s resignation from the body, or sees it as a loss, remains to be seen. But the conservative press has seized on the news with some delight, with right-wing blogger Tim Blair describing it as a “major non-news event” and the CCA as “pointless,” in the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph.
“It’s perverse that the government hasn’t already shut down the agency, seeing as it obviously is doing nothing to give us milder weather,” Blair writes. “The hottest summer happened on your watch, Clive.”