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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!

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Published by The Punch.

The drama of the 2010 federal election came to an end as the independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor threw their support behind Labor. This has an immediate impact on Australian climate policy.

A Gillard minority government promises a new cross-party Climate Change Committee to spearhead carbon-pricing legislation in the next term of government. This agenda will face stiff opposition, but with the right design, it can help move Australia towards a low-carbon economy.

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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 ABC, Australia’s National Broadcaster.

Linking the demise of the Labor party’s electoral fortunes to its decision to defer the CPRS, as Sara Phillips has argued, is correct. But that doesn’t mean that emissions trading will be the focus of the next Australian government, no matter who it is. Whether our next PM is Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott, climate policy will focus on less contentious proposals than putting a price on carbon in the near term.

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Published by leading US climate blog, It’s Getting Hot In Here.

Dissatisfied with the policies of both major political parties, the Australian climate movement are attempting to make climate change a key issue in the final days of the 2010 federal election. A coalition of leading progressive and environmental organisations will hold Walk Against Warming demonstrations in the nation’s capital cities at the weekend. ‘By coming together one week before the election,’ says event organiser Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, ‘the community has a real opportunity to put climate change back on the election agenda, and push our leaders to put policies on the table that will actually cut emissions.’

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition is running its own initiatives to get climate change on the agenda. The youth-run organisation will hold the final of three Power Shift conferences this weekend. In an effort to influence the election, each of the conferences were located in areas that ‘represent crucial senate races and marginal seats in the Federal Election,’ according to AYCC spokesperson Lucy Manne. ‘Young people will make up 20 per cent of the voting population this election,’ Manne explains, ‘and the Power Shift conferences will ensure that the issues they care about will be heard.’

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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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Published by On Line Opinion, Australia’s leading e-journal of social and political debate.

Julia Gillard’s announcement last Friday marked a new low point for Australian climate change policy. If reelected, a Labor government will fill the void created by its decision to defer the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) with a collection of low-impact policy measures: miniscule investments in renewable energy; an ill-conceived “cash for clunkers” program; and the much criticised plan for a “citizens’ assembly” to establish “community consensus” on climate change. Such measures do not reflect the urgency and scale of the climate change challenge.

In the wake of Gillard’s announcement, several climate advocates made the case that community consensus on climate change already exists. Be that as it may, community consensus doesn’t tell us whether climate change is a priority issue for Australians. Polling released last week revealed a disturbing truth for Australia’s climate change advocates. Contrary to the rhetoric of many, addressing climate change ranks well down the list of the most important issues for voters in the 2010 federal election.

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The Australian Greens are implementing a high-risk strategy in a bid to win their first ever House of Representatives seat in a general election. Campaign material released by the Greens this week establishes the Federal seat of Melbourne as the setting of a historical campaign: “If just one in ten [voters] change their vote to Green,” says candidate Adam Bandt, “then we will make history.”

The Greens’ Adam Bandt faces stiff competition from incumbent Lindsay Tanner. Labor will invest all the resources at its disposal to protect the Government’s competent Finance Minister. The loss of a high-profile figure like Tanner would be a severe blow for the Rudd Government, and Labor simply won’t let this happen. We can expect them to substantially outspend the Greens, bombard residents with pamphlets, and use the powers of government to their benefit.

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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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