by Stephen Bygrave, Renew Economy: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/energy-white-paper-latest-wrecking-ball-for-climate-framework-in-australia-24633
In 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
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
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
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.