Would Malcolm Turnbull save the renewable energy target?

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Negotiations over the RET have recommenced, but surely the question must be; What would Malcolm do? It’s clear that Turnbull will not push for a quick return of the carbon price, but he will be happy with a baseline and credit scheme. And he is not scared of green energy.

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As the Coalition government’s energy and environment ministers and their Labor counterparts sit down to resume discussions over the renewable energy target, one question that should overhang the negotiations is this: “What would Malcolm do?”

Tony Abbott’s position is clear: He established a panel of climate deniers and fossil fuel supporters to argue that the RET should be removed completely or slashed by more than half. The latter remains its negotiating position.

But talk of a leadership spill offers the real possibility that Malcolm Turnbull could be the new prime minister as early as next week. As veteran Canberra political writer Michelle Grattan writes, Abbott will either go now, or soon. His leadership is terminal.

What we can assume is that when this happens Turnbull would sweep away the cabal of climate deniers that have installed themselves in and around the PM’s office and dominated the government’s policy making.

This would include Abbott’s main business advisor, Maurice Newman, who was at it again on Friday, writing in The Australian that 2014 was NOT the hottest year on record, and that NASA, NOAA, the World Meteorological Organisation, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Japan’s Meteorological Agency, and the UK Met Office were all wrong for thinking so. Why? Because he had read as much on an obscure though notorious climate denier website favoured by the Mad Right.

So, one suspects we can count on Turnbull to sweep a broom through the likes of Newman, Dick Warburton, Tony Shepherd and David Murray – all climate deniers in charge of advising the government on key policy areas.

What Turnbull won’t do is reverse Abbott’s dumping of the carbon price. The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor gives a good explanation of why here. While Turnbull has been a fierce critic of Direct Action, he also believes it can be adapted into a baseline and credit scheme of the type he has long favoured. In effect, it will be a trading scheme without the word tax.

The mechanism to do so is already built into Direct Action with the so-called “Safeguards” – which means that companies are capped on the amount of emissions they can produce.

This “baseline” can be tightened as needed – particularly if Australia needs to meet a more ambitious target in light of the Paris climate talks – and companies that meet their target could sell their “surplus” to other companies that struggle.

Turnbull could also open up the international market to allow corporates to buy offsets (not a bad idea at the moment considering how cheap they are). And we can be sure that Turnbull would bring a more constructive Australian approach to those climate talks in the lead-up to Paris.

According to The Australian, the Nationals say supporting Turnbull would be conditional on him not bringing back the carbon price, and avoiding other things that might threaten rural life as the Nationals see it, such as gay marriage and relaxed immigration laws.

10865876_10153130182301579_4565051610725786686_oRenewables is a different matter. Turnbull is known to be a supporter – as are most Nationals. Turnbull understands that the world is on the cusp of an energy revolution, and that new technologies will not send the economy back to the dark ages. Judging by his response to his Tesla test drive – he thinks it could be rather fun, and exciting.

And he knows that such a transition is essential for investment, jobs and the competitiveness of the economy. And he knows that the only reason for not going ahead with the renewables target is to protect the interests of the coal lobby.

Supporting a robust renewable energy target, either unchanged from its current level of 41,000GWh, or with minor changes, or delays, as recommended by the Climate Change Authority, would help Turnbull recapture the centre of the policy debate.

What is interesting to note is the response of Labor, who seem petrified by the prospect of Turnbull returning, and stomping over their middle ground. When in power, Labor lost sight of its policy development, and stopped selling its climate package, just so it could try to wedge Turnbull, the then Opposition leader. That worked out badly, for everyone except Tony Abbott and the climate deniers who put him in power.

Now, Labor has tried to wedge Turnbull again, even before he puts up his hand for Liberal Party leadership. This week, environment spokesman Mark Butler issued a press release labeling Turnbull a “fraud” on climate change, including a “best of” list of quotes highlighting Turnbull’s vocal gymnastics as he tried to marry his obvious disdain for Direct Action with his need to follow the party line.

“He might wear a nicer suit, but Malcolm Turnbull is as backwards as Tony Abbott when it comes to action on climate change,” Butler noted.

“This is despite Malcolm Turnbull declaring: ‘I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am’.”

Yes, but getting agreement on the RET – and starting to tap into the $20 billion of investment that is in danger of disappearing overseas would be a good place to start. Labor had the opportunity to lock this issue away in 2012, but refused to take up the CCA’s recommendation that the next review be put off to 2016.

As ACT energy minister Simon Corbell said, after announcing successful tender for 200MW of wind energy:

“No progress suits their policy agenda, which is effectively to put in the deep freeze the development of large-scale renewables across Australia.

“I can only trust that with the tide turning against the Abbott government, that there will be a rethinking about the impact that their policy position has had on jobs, and on economic development in the renewables sector right around the country, including in many regional areas.”

Roger Price, one of the winning tenderers of the wind auction, put it this way:

“Over the last four years despite significant local investment, we have generated very little revenue in Australia, thanks to Federal Government inaction and deliberate nobbling of the renewable energy industry.

“Our business has only survived due our ability to successfully generate export revenue. I find it frustrating to keep hearing phrases from the Federal Government like “supporting small business” and “creating sunrise industries” when their actions are clearly inconsistent. If they are genuine they need to support a substantial and ambitious renewable energy target.”

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20 Comments
  1. Connor Moran 5 years ago

    Turnbull is happy to be in the role of wrecker, but there’s every chance the Labor RET puppeter is Martin Ferguson which is bad news for everyone.

    • Alan Baird 5 years ago

      Correct. Marn Ferson is no more left wing than Adolf Hitler when it comes to climate change and corporate Australia. He’s the Albert Speer of the Rudd / Gillard Labor Govt. Only a Labor Quisling does speeches for right wing “think” tanks. No wonder the Conservatives wept crocodile tears when he quit.

      • The Green Lantern 5 years ago

        Yeah, that’s why they’re called the Another Liberal Party. The revolving door between Labor’s parliamentary ranks and corporate lobbying and “thinktank” jobs makes it all so obvious.

  2. john 5 years ago

    I do not think Malcolm will displace Tone.
    The liberals would be in big trouble with their support base if they were to admit that they have made some poor decisions and then reversed or gave positive statements that reversed the perceived message.
    Tone will and is being contrite and his best chance of survival is to not be so forthright in his statements that are not taken very well by anyone who went past grade 5.
    The RET will be left to wither and die and then the statement can be made that there is no demand for it any longer so reduce it to the level it has achieved.
    Rational being that no take up or interest so why have some policy that is not delivering.
    Will this work?
    Yes it will keep the followers on side.
    Tone will not make any statement that derides our national RE target but will give positive statements about how well his government is fostering the installation of RE.
    Malcolm would be best served by getting out of politics as his future is dismal to put a positive slant on it.

    • Harry Verberne 5 years ago

      The spill is on according to latest news reports. Personally I think Abbott is done for and good riddance except for who might replace him. Turnbull? Despite the reservations of many in the LNP he is probably the best placed to turn around their fortunes but he will need every bit of his guile and negotiation skills to change some key policies, apart from the RET, for which the government is rightly on the nose. If not he will suffer the same fate as Newman in 2016 or earlier.

      • john 5 years ago

        Harry I would think if Malcolm stood he would not get the support and Abbot would then be kept.
        However the party knows that Abbot is on the nose with the electorate so who to turn to ?
        I bet you they keep the Tone and he will make suitable platitudes to the electorate.

  3. Damo 5 years ago

    Giles – ‘Labor had the opportunity to lock this issue away in 2012, but refused to take up the CCA’s recommendation that the next review be put off to 2016’ – while true, didn’t prevent Abbot from initiating the Warburton Review. We just ended up with two reviews (with vastly different outcomes). I agree that Labor should of implemented CCA’s review recommendation, but that would not have prevented Abbott from having his sham one done as soon as he came to office.

    • Giles 5 years ago

      Every time the Abbott government sought to justify the Warburton review, they said it was a legislative requirement to have one (actually the CCA had the statutory responsibility). If labor had done what they should have, the wrecking ball tactics of the Warburton review would have been clear to see for all and not justifiable.

      • john 5 years ago

        In fact the Warburton review showed that the RET has and will have a positive effect for the Australian Economy.
        Where to go now ?

  4. James Wight 5 years ago

    I don’t know about the RET, but I know Turnbull has
    said about the CEFC
    “there is far too much money
    being thrown at this in a very inefficient way”. That doesn’t suggest he’s a
    big fan of renewables.

    Likewise, the Emissions Reduction
    Fund won’t achieve anything even if Turnbull does turn it into a
    baseline-and-credit ETS. Emissions trading is meaningless without an emissions
    cap. And the so-called “safeguards” are meaningless because the government has made clear they will
    effectively be set at business-as-usual emissions levels, allowing emissions to
    increase wherever economic production increases. (Although in some cases historical absolute baselines may be used, they will not apply to new companies or
    significant business expansion.)

    Also I’m skeptical about whether
    even a capped emissions trading scheme can work. The reason the international offsets are cheap is because international emissions trading schemes aren’t working. I think we need real direct
    action – government actively investing in renewables and other new technologies,
    closing down coal power plants, and reducing energy demand.

    Honestly I think we’re better
    off with Abbott, who is obviously working for the fossil fuel industry, than a sneaky
    greenwasher like Turnbull.

    • Harry Verberne 5 years ago

      As long as there is cap on emissions which is gradually decreased, EMT should work as intended.

    • Ken Dyer 5 years ago

      Perhaps we might be better off with Turnbull, because it just might make the Labor Party harden up on their carbon and renewable policies, as we have heard absolutely nothing from them in this regard.

  5. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    Turnbull : ‘I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am’. Ouch. The sentiments are good, but unless Turnbull can get rid of the hysterical Right, they have the unfortunate prophecy that he can not take up any invitation to lead the LNP, even if all others give way.We can only hope he was using his time productively this week, ringing around to see who would support his climate policies, before he gets into a position where he has to actually propose them. He will not lead with these odds, although i’m sure he is a very likeable and electable person.It probably boils down to only one choice of Party in 2016 that will be effective to make rapid changes to climate policy, and that’s the Greens. Hope your seat is fielding a candidate then and good luck getting her to Canberra.

    • Billey Bangle 5 years ago

      The greens, because of their opposition to nuclear power are part of the problem and not part of the solution

      • Jo 5 years ago

        Nuclear power IS the problem, not the solution.
        The one fusion reactor we have is fully sufficient to supply us all over next few billion years.

        • Billey Bangle 5 years ago

          Same people say this, some people say that.
          There are a lot of people that only get their information from one source.
          My view is that the problem can only be fixed completely by nuclear, that nuclear will be quicker and damage the environment less.
          I have read the IPCC report thoroughly, and the Chernobyl Forum report. Both are endorsed by the UN and their agencies.
          It seems to me that I’m sitting in the middle between the climate-change deniers on the right who say the IPCC report is the result of a conspiracy, and the anti-nuclear movement on the left who say the Chernobyl Forum report is the result of a conspiracy.
          Patrick Johnson once said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” and I say “The Conspiracy Theory is the last refuge of the ideologically closed-mind”

          • Jo 5 years ago

            Nuclear is dead. It is by far to expensive.We want to pay less for electricity not more.
            This is from Wikipedia about ‘Hinkley Point A nuclear power station’ which is the new big power station planned in the UK:

            Sample calculation of the cost-effectiveness of Hinkley C

            In the year 2018/19 for UK: Offshore Wind: 140 £/MWh, Onshore Wind 90 £/MWh, Photovoltaic 100 £/MWh,[42]
            Hinkley C with compensation for inflation (assumed average inflation of 2 per cent) in 2022 (operation start): 92.5 £/MWh * 1.02^10 = 112 £/MWh. Already in 2033, after 11 years of operation, the feed-in tariff of Hinkley C will exceed the feed-in tariff for offshore wind from the year 2018/19: 92.5 £/MWh * 1.02^21 = 140.2 £/MWh. At the end of the
            remuneration after 10 years of construction plus 35 years of operation, the feed-in tariff is 92.5 £/MWh * 1.02^45 = 225 £/MWh .

            The average for the feed-in tariff of Hinkley C over the entire running time is: 92.5 £/MWh * 1.02^(10 + 35/2) = 159 £/MWh. Not taken into account was that renewable energy over the long term will continue to fall in price.[43]

          • Billey Bangle 5 years ago

            If you believe nuclear is too expensive, you’re living entirely in the enclosed world of anti-nuclear websites. There’s a diversity of opinion around. Try googling nuclear + cost site:edu

            My belief is that the “nuclear is too expensive” is entirely a delusion of the anti-nuclear groups. I was unable to find ANY “nuclear is too expensive” reports from independent groups. Not a single one.

            In science the gold-standard is the peer reviewed article. here are some
            http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12433/pdf
            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036054421000602X
            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001191640300403X

          • q2w3e4rt 5 years ago

            Latest German Fraunhofer institute (like CSIRO) energy and economic modelling on 80% CO2 reduction by 2050 for Germany with mostly renewables… its cheaper.

            And Australia has an abundance of renewable energy.

            https://workspace.imperial.ac.uk/climatechange/Public/pdfs/presentations/solar%202050/Solar-2050_2014-01_Henning.pdf

  6. Carey Campbell 5 years ago

    Look forward to seeing Green Party return to the governing coalition. The Green Party Green New Deal Eco jobs for the economy is a winner. Solar jobs. Wind Jobs. Geothermal jobs. Rail jobs. Conservation jobs. Weatherization jobs. Efficiency jobs. The Green Party is right. The Green New Deal is just what is needed.

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