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Crossposted by Crikey’s environment blog, Rooted.
At the weekend, a coalition of environment groups and unions launched a television advertisement featuring the award-winning actress Cate Blanchett that urges the public to support the government’s carbon price policy.
Conservative critics have attempted turn Cate Blanchett’s presence in the ad into a weakness for the ‘Say Yes’ campaign. Emphasising Blanchett’s personal wealth, conservative critics have sought to present the carbon price as just another elite cause—one that is out of touch with concerns and interests of ‘everyday Australians.’ This narrative will appeal to some, but as many people have noted on the twittersphere, it smacks of hypocrisy. Where were the conservative critiques when billionaire-mining magnates Gina Rhinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest used their personal wealth to sink the Rudd government’s proposal to tax the industry’s exorbitant profits?
Mark Textor, the political strategist and former pollster to PM John Howard, commented on the debate, tweeting: ‘One indication of #adfailure? When there’s more conversation about the tactics and execution of it rather than about its core subject matter.’ By this measure, there’s no doubt that opponents to the carbon price have blunted the pro-carbon price message by stirring up class resentment. The Say Yes advertisement might have avoided this by modeling the advertisement on those used in the successful ‘Your Rights at Work’ campaign. Several of these ads used, dare I say it, ‘everyday Australians’ to make the case for fair industrial relations laws.
Looking beyond the fuss over Blanchett, the Say Yes campaign reveals just how low the bar has been set on national climate policy.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reframed her government’s carbon pricing agenda in an attempt to tap into the chief concerns of the electorate. Rather than making the case for climate legislation with the Great Barrier Reef-destroying rhetoric of her predecessor Kevin Rudd, Gillard is presenting climate change as an economic opportunity. In the words of political commentator Annabel Crabb, the government is ‘…replacing morality with economics.’
Published by the US-based clean energy advocate, Americans for Energy Leadership.
On the heels of filing a complaint with the WTO against China’s subsidies for its domestic wind turbine manufacturers, President Obama signed an appropriations law that requires the Department of Defense to purchase American-made solar panels. The move appears to be the first instance of America leveraging its WTO complaint to boost its clean technology industry, and shows that the US is beginning to take the clean energy race seriously.
Some will argue that the ‘buy American’ provision smacks of hypocrisy—that the administration is as guilty of the same behaviour it has criticised China for. Others will argue that the measure counters the Chinese subsidies and is a legitimate way to bolster the US clean energy sector in an uneven playing field. Either way, the move shines a spotlight on the role of military procurement.
Published by the US-based clean energy advocate, Americans for Energy Leadership.
In an attempt to advance the “new Sputnik” narrative, the Obama administration filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation against China over its clean energy subsidies in the last weeks of 2010.
The administration’s move comes just months after the United Steelworkers (USW) union filed a trade case with the office of United States Trade Representative. The earlier USW petition argues that China’s generous subsidies and land grants, available only for locally made parts, constitute preferential treatment of its domestic clean energy manufacturers. The current practices, the USW argues, disadvantage American firms and are trade distorting.
Over at Grist, Lucia Green-Weiskel and Tina Gerhardt write that:
“Both complaints ignore the fact that energy industries all over the world benefit from government subsidies. In the U.S. and Europe, the nuclear and fossil-fuel industries get massive public subsidies. And as a percentage of GDP, Spain and the U.K. pump funding at levels similar to China’s into green subsidies.”
While this critique is correct, ultimately it doesn’t really matter whether or not the WTO rules in favor of America. The whole exercise helps to focus attention on the “new Sputnik” narrative that appears to be gaining momentum.
Following the trend of the last several years, climate change will be a key political issue in the year 2011. The Gillard government’s Multi-Party Climate Change Committee and the quest for a comprehensive climate change policy will drive the debate in Australia. On the international front, the UNFCCC process and seemingly endless negotiations will once again spark interest and argument. And that’s just what we know.
The Real Ewbank was launched in 2010 to compile my writing on these matters. To kick off 2011, I thought I’d share with you the most popular posts of the last year. I’ll be back with more analysis of domestic and international climate change politics soon, but for now, thanks for reading!
Tonight in Melbourne, Australia’s leading journalists will gather for the annual Walkley Awards—the profession’s highest honour.
Noting the absence of a Walkley that recognises excellence in environmental journalism, leading figures in national climate and energy debates have signed an open letter to the Walkley Advisory Board, calling for a new award to fill this critical gap in 2011.
I encourage you to read the statement below which featured in Crikey‘s subscriber email today. As a signatory, I hope the letter contributes to the creation of a Walkley for Australia’s outstanding environmental journalists sooner rather than later.
This Saturday the state of Victoria goes to the polls. The Victorian Greens party were originally expected to mount a serious challenge to Labor in the inner-city seats of Melbourne, Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote. But that was, of course, before the Liberal party’s decision to preference the Greens party last in all 88 of the state’s lower house seats.
Now, the consensus among political analysts is that Ted Ballieu’s unexpected move has dashed the Greens’ hopes of following Adam Bandt’s success at the 2010 federal election. According to ABC’s election analyst Antony Green:
‘The Liberal decision to preference against the Greens in all electorates is an in-principle decision which will deliver Labor the four inner-city seats where they are under challenge from the Greens. Even if the Liberals don’t campaign strongly, there will be very little flow of preferences to the Greens and certainly not enough to defeat Labor in those inner-city seats.’
Regardless of whether or not the Victorian Greens get new members elected to parliament in 2010, the party will eventually have to address the question of leadership. The Age quote Greg Barber acknowledging an agreement among fellow Green parliamentarians to share the leadership. Will the Victorian Greens elect a party leader in the next term of office or will they continue with the joint leadership farce?
The non-partisan think tank the Grattan Institute has published a new report that identifies improved teacher effectiveness as the key to achieving better educational outcomes for Australian students. The reform focus, the Institute argues, will allow Australia to increase its international performance and help the nation harness the economic and social benefits of a better-educated population.
The Investing in Our Teachers, Investing in Our Economy report is an attempt to broaden the education policy agenda by looking beyond the narrow focus on class sizes. Dr Ben Jensen, the Education Program Director of Grattan Institute says:
‘Measures to improve teacher effectiveness will deliver better value for our children’s learning outcomes, improve Australia’s economic productivity and be a better use of public funds than reducing class sizes.’
The Grattan Institute adds:
‘The drive to reduce class sizes, whilst well intentioned and politically popular, is found to be without impact in producing better education outcomes for students.’
The report represents a break from the usual policy discourse that places emphasis on quantitative performance indicators.
At the weekend, The Age reported that increased alcohol prices are driving many young people* to switch to the party drug ecstasy.
A new phenomenon of young people ‘switching’ to the increasingly cheap party drug ecstasy has been fuelled by rising alcohol prices, according to drug researchers, nightclub owners and the people themselves…
‘It is cheaper and convenient to use pills,’ said Professor Jake Najman, director of the University of Queensland’s Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre. ‘A lot of young people are making that choice to switch between alcohol and ecstasy. Pills can be cheaper, there is no question.’
Many readers will be thinking ‘what the hell does ecstasy have to do with climate change policy?’—the frequently discussed topic of this blog. The answer is simple: the case highlights the unintended consequences of pricing-based policy and the substitution effect.
Published at Crikey’s environment blog, Rooted.
It’s time for the government and climate change advocates to stop obsessing over carbon pricing and get behind an investment-centred climate policy.
Polling released last week, as PM Gillard announced the members of her government’s Carbon Pricing Climate Change Committee, showed that just 37% of Australians think it is very important to implement an ETS (or other carbon-pricing measures) to address climate change. When we consider the prominence of emissions trading in contemporary climate change policy debates in Australia, it is fair to say the measure is still struggling to win strong public support.