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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 Climate Spectator.

This week, the Labor government’s Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC) agreed to a set of principles to guide the development of a national carbon-pricing model. While a carbon pricing legislation is a worthy pursuit that will make fossil fuels more expensive, we must not forget that a carbon price alone is not enough to deal with the climate crisis. The mechanism has several limitations that inhibit the deployment of clean energy infrastructure.

Earlier in the year the Head of the Energy Technology Policy Division for the International Energy Agency Peter Taylor argued, “…a price on carbon is needed to send a strong signal to the market, but it’s unlikely this will be enough to transform our energy system. Other policies will be needed to support technology development and deployment.” To ensure effective climate change mitigation and the transformation of our energy system, the Gillard government and MPCCC must be cognisant of the limitations of carbon prices and include additional policies in next year’s climate and energy agenda.

The best public policy approach is to reverse the hierarchy between carbon price and the so-called ‘complementary measures’, such as a feed in tariff, efficiency standards, public infrastructure investments and industry development. An effective carbon price will be the measure that best complements a whole-of-sector reform plan for energy generation, distribution and consumption. After all, Australia must effectively transition its whole energy system to renewable sources as soon as possible.

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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?

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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 ABC’s The Drum.

The ascension of Julia Gillard provides an opportunity for Labor to reorient its climate change policy agenda.

Contrary to what its proponents have argued for years, emissions trading has not been as politically feasible as initially thought. Labor’s inability to pass a market-based mechanism in its first term not only brings into question the political palatability of neoliberal-inspired policy, but also draws attention to the need for alternative approaches.

With the national climate change debate focused solely on capping and trading carbon, policymakers have forgotten that there are many paths to reduce Australia’s emissions and transition to a clean energy economy.

The launch of Beyond Zero Emissions‘ Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy report is an attempt to push back against narrow-minded policymaking. It details a path for Australia to meet 100 per cent of its energy needs with renewable energy by the end of the decade. Making the plan a reality will require a radical shift in climate policy.

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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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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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