Three key measures to help Abbott avoid a carbon crunch

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The Pollute-O-Meter is back. How do the policies of the presumed government-in-waiting stack up to their commitments on carbon and climate?

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As Tony Abbott told Parliament on Tuesday “The question is not whether or not our climate is impacted by human activity—clearly there is a human impact on our climate. The question is: how is it best dealt with?”

This is important when we realise that both our major political parties share two key carbon and climate objectives.  The first is their support for reducing Australia’s 2000 carbon pollution levels by 5 to 25 per cent by 2020, using the same conditions for global action.

The second is the global warming objective, also agreed to by the USA, China and 190 other countries, of avoiding global warming of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The ability to reach 25 per cent reduction and to help avoid, but also prepare for, the serious climate impacts of 2 degree warming and more are central to The Climate Institute’s 2013 climate policy tests for the 2013 Federal Election.

These benchmarks will be used to assess the positions of major and minor parties and key independents. The Climate Institute’s Pollute-o-meter, measuring the emissions reduction of climate policies of the ALP and Coalition in the last two elections, will also return.

This year represents a carbon crunch for Australia. The shape of the next Parliament and Government will be crucial to whether we have strong and effective climate policies that enable Australia to be part of the climate and low carbon solutions, not part of the problem

The next three years will see if Australia helps or hinders global climate solutions and negotiations towards the 2015 agreement which will cover all major emitters. We will also see if recent historic declines in domestic emissions from major sectors continue, if we can accelerate growing low carbon investments, and if we boost preparations for unavoidable climate impacts already hitting home.

The policy benchmarks detailed in The Climate Institute’s Managing the Unavoidable while Avoiding the Unmanageable Policy Brief include:

  1. Cut carbon pollution: Ability to cut 2000 emissions 25 per cent by 2020 and around 60 per cent by 2030 (our share of helping to avoid 2 degree warming).  Ratification of Kyoto II and investments in climate finance to further climate negotiations are also key.
  2. Accelerate low carbon investments: A carbon price or penalty that makes businesses take responsibility for their emissions and drive structural change in large emitting sectors; policy stability for renewable energy; a 30 per cent boost in energy productivity and greater corporate and investor transparency of emissions profiles.
  3. Prepare for climate impacts: Integrated assessment of the climate risks under 2 and 4 degree warming scenarios across infrastructure and Government agencies and in all appropriate national policies, standards, targets and oversight (While over 190 countries have agreed to avoid 2 degrees current commitments would deliver 4 degrees).

Australia is the developed country most exposed to climate impacts and it is in our economic and climate national interest to avoid global warming but also to prepare for the increasing climate impacts.

For the first time, The Climate Institute has included policy benchmarks that address the need to prepare for the climate momentum brought about by greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reaching levels not seen for millions of years. Lack of preparation for the climate risks from worsening extremes of heat, rainfall, bushfire and drought puts the lives and livelihoods of Australians at risk.

For business globally, and even for many Australians, Superstorm Sandy has brought into focus the fact that climate change costs, and that the cost is rising.

Australia also cannot hide from the fact that carbon markets and pricing are growing worldwide, from China to California to South Africa, and that the dropping costs of low carbon solutions raises risks for our high carbon economy.

Australia’s rollercoaster carbon politics is heading for a big crunch at the end of 2013.  The outcomes may well define our economic, diplomatic and climate future.  How our next Parliament and Government will handle the twists and turns of the next crucial few years will be driven by the outcomes of the election and the policy and political developments leading up to it and over the following 12 months.

Throughout this it is important to remember that with the shared objectives and acceptance of the science, this is nothing like Workchoices.  The perhaps ironically shared objectives require strong and effective policies to cut pollution, accelerate low carbon investments and prepare for climate impacts.

John Connor, CEO The Climate Institute.  The Climate Institute will publish interim assessments of parties policies against these benchmarks from late July and publish our detailed Pollute-o-meter analysis in mid-August.


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  1. Rob 6 years ago

    Great insights here. I am a little worried about the first paragraph though. It suggests we can take Abbott at his word. To that end I note that he also says this:

    “whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven”

    Read more:

    And he did directly lie to Tony Jones about meeting George Pell. When making your assessments of the policies its important to do some discounting for probable deception. I think the clearest read of Abbott is that regardless of what he might say he is likely to dismantle support for renewables, firm up support for fossil fuels which suggests to me he will be remembered as the “George W. Bush” of Australian politics.

    • Louise 6 years ago

      “I think the clearest read of Abbott is that regardless of what he might say he is likely to dismantle support for renewables, firm up support for fossil fuels which suggests to me he will be remembered as the “George W. Bush” of Australian politics.”

      The above sums it up nicely. That is my take as well.

      I would even go further and say that following his likely win he will un-intentionally initiate a new era in the annals of renewables. He will reverse the current trend where you have more off-grid homes outside urban areas to where city dwellers will start to go off-grid and dis-connect from their electric utility completely.

      There are 60 manufacturer’s who have announced that they will island system/off-grid systems to market and in Germany large manufacturers are starting to install their own off-grid systems as it is more cost effective over the life of the equipment to generate your own power than to buy electricity.

      The Australian grid operator will be the next Australian fixed telephone operator.

      Off-grid installations will be the equivalent to the mobile phone.

      Times are changing rapidly, while the incumbents are fastly asleep at the top.

      The concept of Net Zero Energy or Energy Plus Houses is unheard of.

      • Concerned 6 years ago

        Louise,thank goodnees we wil have adults in charge after September.

  2. wideEyedPupil 6 years ago

    Last time I read material on downloaded from the Climate Institute website I noted they are promoting the fictional construct that is Carbon Capture and Storage as a method for fighting climate change. May as well add the League of Justice Superheros to that list, Climate Institute.

    IIRC the Climate Institute are promoting fossil gas as a favourable emissions reduction technology. Fossil Gas is no such panacea. The environmental damage associated with fossil gas is long term and non-trival in prime agricultural land and the carbon footprint (as CO2-e index of methane is 104x CO2) once migratory and other fugitive emissions are accounted for (which they aren’t presently and the Aust Govt admits as much) make it as bad or much worse than fossil gas. Especially so for CSG and Shale gas but even for so called natural gas there are network emissions that counter the claims of clean.

    Even with no fugitive emissions gas still burns to make C02 and CO just not quite as much as coal that’s all. It’s not a transition fuel it a delaying tactic by fossil fuels to stop the 100% renewable economy we need to avert a certain catastrophic end to civilisation as we know it.

    For my part I feel like the Climate Institute is a little too close to industry and it’s delaying strategies and green-washing tactics.

  3. Michel Syna Rahme 6 years ago

    I’m going to add my flippant remark….. I still hold my faith that a majority of fellow Australians will not vote for Tony Abbott come September! However, the right side of Labour could not have influenced the probability any better for him. If he does seize the leadership he absolutely does not deserve, nor is capable of, then let’s hope enough vote for the Greens, who may be able to constrain the embarrassment. What is almost certain is that we will not contain warming to 2 degrees and it will be a hard fight to make it less that 4 degrees. What is also for certain is that Abbott will completely mess up Australia’s contribution towards climate change and our transition towards renewable energy. Therefore some of the positives are:
    a. Australians will be forced to truly wake up over the next 4 years
    b. New Zealand is already awake like a little ripper leader – the place to be
    c. Not Tony Abbott nor the Liberals will be elected for a second term, and he and Hockey will be fated to a George Bush style legacy
    c. Dirty energy industry and corrupt media entities want to play dirty, great, bring it on, see where that leads them in 4 years time
    d. Although the renewable energy battlers will continue between now and 2017 – 2017 to 2021 in Australia is shaping up to be renewable energy boom times

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