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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 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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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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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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Leigh Ewbank


Climate and energy writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

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