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Co-authored with Pablo Brait, Director of Strategic Planning for Beyond Zero Emissions, and published by ABC’s The Drum.

In April, the Rudd Government abandoned the severely flawed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the centrepiece of its national climate policy agenda.

After two defeats in the Senate, and unwilling to risk a double dissolution election on the issue, Labor backflipped and deferred its plan to establish a domestic emissions-trading scheme to 2013. At a time when decisive action is needed to avoid dangerous climate change our national climate policy is at a standstill.

Australia desperately needs a new approach. We need a policy agenda that acknowledges the urgency of the situation and accepts the requirement of evidence-based emissions cuts identified by climate science. We need a circuit breaker to reinvigorate the debate and spur action.

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

It’s no understatement that last week’s Federal budget was bad for climate change. The Rudd Government, fresh from its emissions trading backdown, once again failed to live up to its rhetoric. It failed to act on “the greatest scientific, moral and economic challenge of our time”. And it failed to deliver the scale of investment needed to drive our transition to a clean energy economy.

There was a belief that the 2010 budget would include some big investments to combat the climate crisis. Rudd’s decision to delay the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) to 2013 coincided with a sharp decline in public support for the government. The Prime Minister’s own approval rating has collapsed in recent weeks, falling 14 points to 45 per cent – the lowest level since taking office in 2007. The budget was regarded as a way for Rudd to regain his edge on climate policy. He would have the opportunity to restore the confidence of voters suspicious of his government’s commitment to climate change.

As we now know, the government’s investment in renewable energy was markedly less than the year earlier. But should this come as a surprise? No. It shouldn’t.

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Published by the ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster.

Australia needs a Plan B for climate policy. We need a nation-building project on the scale of the Snowy Mountains Scheme to invest in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure. This is the fresh approach needed to drive Australia’s transition towards a clean economy and protect the nation from dangerous climate change.

The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday that the government will delay its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme until 2013 is a tacit admission that pricing carbon is not viable in the current political environment.

Labor and proponents of emissions trading have been living a fantasy for too long. They have ignored the realities of politics to pursue a policy that had no reasonable chance of being implemented at a time when climate change experts agree we must act. Now, Australia is set for yet more inaction.

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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 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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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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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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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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