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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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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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Published by the ABC, Australia’s National Broadcaster.

Recently, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released Creating Jobs – Cutting Pollution, a new report that investigates how reducing our carbon dioxide output will benefit the Australian economy. Not surprisingly for me, the report finds that our transition to a clean energy economy yields excellent job-creation prospects for Australia. But amid this positive economic forecast is a framing of climate change that has several limitations and implications for policy.

Creating Jobs – Cutting Pollution (pdf) frames climate change as a pollution problem. This frame is consistent with the title of the Rudd government’s chief climate change policy, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and is a dominant way of communicating the problem of climate change in Australia.

The pollution frame shows how we understand, or in this case misunderstand, the phenomenon. What is meant by pollution in the context of climate change? Does the same language used for sewage overflows, chemical leaks, and oil spills adequately communicate the steps needed to address the challenge?

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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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Published by The Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank based in Oakland, California, and cross posted at US energy blog, WattHead.

Of all the news and commentary I read about Earth Hour in Australia, not once did I see a mention of the billions of people that now live in energy poverty. Event organizers and commentators failed to discuss the fact that while millions of people around the world symbolically switched off their lights for one hour, billions are desperate to turn their lights on.

According to the Baker Institute at Rice University:

“…roughly 1.6 billion people, which is one quarter of the global population, still have no access to electricity and some 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass, including wood, agricultural residues and dung, for cooking and heating. More than 99 percent of people without electricity live in developing regions, and four out of five live in rural areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.”

For an event that professes to support climate change solutions, one would think that addressing energy poverty without wrecking our climate would feature prominently in Earth Hour campaigning. So why was energy poverty ignored? And what does this say about the environmental thinking that informed Earth Hour?

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Published by leading US climate change blog Solve Climate, and Chain Reaction magazine.

In Australia, several environmental groups have banded together to encourage a new approach to climate action. They’re steering away from incremental approaches, which have largely failed, and instead are promoting a holistic Transition Decade.

Spearheaded by Friends of the Earth, Beyond Zero Emissions, Climate Emergency Network and the Sustainable Living Foundation, the Transition Decade (T10) presents a shared framework for individuals and community groups to develop, then implement initiatives to put Australia on the path of sustainability by 2020.

“The T10 alliance recognizes the urgent situation humanity faces as clearly outlined by the most current climate science,” says Beyond Zero Emissions executive director Matthew Wright. “It also recognizes that wholesale change is needed to set our society on a safe climate and ecologically sustainable path.”

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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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After weeks of silence, the Prime Minister responded to the Coalition’s accusations that his Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is a ‘great big tax’.  The PM’s counter punch mimicked the Coalition’s attack, but argued that it is the Opposition Leader whose climate policy would impose a ‘mega-tax’ on Australians. Labor has since recalibrated its message, branding the Coalition policy a ‘climate con job.’ Fortunately this change in tact spares the public from an infantile debate about who has the biggest… tax that is.

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Leigh Ewbank


Climate and energy writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

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