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Yesterday, it was reported BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers supports a price on carbon. The news was a welcome development for climate change advocates, particularly for those who prefer carbon pricing as the key mechanism for reducing Australia’s carbon emissions.

While it’s true that Kloppers did discuss a carbon price and make recommendations for such a policy in his address to the Australian British Chamber of Commerce, the widely circulated soundbite–‘BHP Boss calls for carbon price’–does not adequately reflect Mr Kloppers’ broader comments about change policy.

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The pact negotiated between Labor and the Greens takes effect as Julia Gillard forms a minority government with the support of The Greens’ Adam Bandt and independents Andrew Willkie, Tony Windsor, and Rob Oakeshott. Considering that the Greens had no real choice but to support Labor, their decision to sign a formal agreement with Labor will pay dividends. Let’s have a look why.

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The independent MPs and newly elected Green, harbour ambitions to change the nature of parliamentary politics in Australia. The new ‘gang of four’—independent MPs Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, along with Green MP Adam Bandt—will decide which party forms the next government of Australia. They are using their leverage shake up the two-party system and to push for a more cooperative and consensus-based parliament.

Analysing their joint address at the National Press Club, Mark Davis points to the MPs’ divergent positions on climate change to illustrate the difficulty of reaching consensus on complex policy issues.

In the context of climate change, Davis’ analysis is interesting but limited. It conflates emissions trading with climate change policy. Disagreement on emissions trading doesn’t mean that consensus on effective climate policy is out of reach. It simply means that an ETS is unlikely to win the agreement from all parties. While emissions trading has dominated the climate policy discourse for years, there are alternative frameworks capable of winning the support of the public and parliament.

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Published by the progressive think tank the Centre for Policy Development.

After a disastrous week on the campaign trail PM Gillard is attempting to rejuvenate her campaign by revealing the ‘real Julia.’ A slip in the polls has prompted Gillard to reject the ‘the risk-averse orthodoxy of modern campaigning.’ Moving away from a risk-averse and stage-managed campaign sounds like a good idea, but why stop there? Why not give up on the ‘risk-averse orthodoxy’ to governing the country?

The modern Labor party is as cautious and poll driven as they come. The first term Labor government did not articulate a clear vision for Australia or present a set of values and beliefs that guide its approach to governing. Labor needs more than the ‘real’ Julia Gillard. It needs to rejuvenate itself with progressive values and policy ideas.

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Australia’s new Prime Minister is clearing the decks. Julia Gillard is seeking to quickly resolve contentious issues to set the Labor party up for the forthcoming federal election. First it was settling the dispute between the government and the mining giants over the proposed Resources Super Profits Tax (RPST). Last week it was establishing a position on Australia’s most exaggerated issue, asylum seekers arriving by boat. And this week Gillard will reportedly address climate change. The PM will seek to outline the climate policy Labor will take to the polls

Rather than canvass Labor’s policy options (done well here by Adam Morton), I’d like to explore the implications of Gillard’s mining tax compromise (or capitulation?) for the carbon-pricing agenda. With the speed of Gillard’s clean up job little has been written about the impact the RPST backdown will have on the push for a domestic emissions trading scheme.

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This post is an extension of a letter published by The Age.

Last week, deputy director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, Frank Jotzo, made the case that carbon pricing is the “single most important tool” for decarbonising the Australian economy.

While Frank Jotzo’s carbon pricing rhetoric is reassuring, it is off the mark in terms of climate change politics and policy. The challenge of implementing carbon pricing is greater than ever. The government’s backdown on the resources super profits tax will embolden Australia’s greenhouse mafia, who will double their efforts to kill off, or substantially weaken, carbon-pricing legislation.

In a policy sense, Jotzo overstates the ability of emissions trading to de-carbonise the economy. Measures to rapidly deploy large-scale renewable energy technologies like concentrated solar thermal and other low-carbon infrastructure must be the “central plank” of credible climate policy. Carbon pricing can play a supportive role to these initiatives.

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Cross posted at Beyond Zero Emissions.

Last week’s federal budget was a bad one for all Australians wanting action on climate change. The Rudd government failed to include the renewable energy investments needed to drive the transition to a zero emissions economy.

The budget will be remembered as another missed opportunity to make a down payment on Australia’s renewable energy future.

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Cross posted at Beyond Zero Emissions.

The Australian Greens have put high-speed rail (HSR) back on the national agenda. Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has called on the Rudd government to fund a study identifying the best route for connecting Australia’s two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney, with HSR.

The ambitious project represents the type of nation building that should be at the heart of national climate policy. The project has the potential to reduce Australia’s ballooning carbon emissions, and kick-start the development of a larger HSR network that can one day connect all of Australia’s mainland capital cities.

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Cross posted at US climate and energy blog, WattHead.

It’s official: “cap-and-trade is dead” in the United States. The frank declaration was made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham during a private meeting with environmental leaders at the weekend. The Washington Post report that the Senators spearheading national climate legislation have rejected an economy-wide cap-and-trade scheme. Senators Lindsey Graham, John Kerry (Democrat), and Joe Lieberman (Independent) are “engaged in a radical behind-the-scenes overhaul of climate legislation” and are “preparing to jettison the broad ‘cap-and-trade’ approach that has defined the legislative debate for close to a decade.”

The collapse of cap-and-trade in the United States has implications for Australian climate policy, making the Rudd Government’s mission to pass a cap-and-trade scheme even more difficult. The Australian Senate has twice rejected Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) and is set to reject the bill for a third time in May. Unlike the previous rejections, the stakes are higher this time around. A third strike for the proposal just months out from a national election would be a demoralising blow for the Labor Party.

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Cross posted at WattHead and The Energy Collective.

The US climate blog It’s Getting Hot in Here featured an excellent post on the framing of climate change at the weekend. Taj Schottland, a senior at the College of the Atlantic, has developed three frames for communicating climate change and associated policies to political conservatives. To appeal to conservative audiences, Schottland recommends:

  1. Replacing the term ‘climate change’ with ‘climate security’ to better explain the ways in which the changing climate adversely affects America’s economic health, national security and prosperity.
  2. Highlighting clean ‘energy advancement’ as a way to avoid the negative connotations associated with reducing emissions and by implication economic growth.
  3. Emphasising the objective of cap-and-trade policies to ‘harness the power of the market.’

Regardless of whether you agree with Schottland’s suggestions, it is encouraging to see that climate advocates are examining the ways in which climate change is framed. And perhaps more importantly, that they are developing new frames to communicate the impacts of the phenomenon to a wider audience. Given that the construction of one capture-all frame is virtually impossible, we need multiple frames to appeal to people across the political spectrum, and build the broad public support needed for government action.

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Leigh Ewbank


Climate and energy writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Creative Commons License All blogs presented on this site, therealewbank.wordpress.com, by Leigh Ewbank are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License
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