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How Climate Change Will Affect Australia’s Upcoming Election

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Two Options For What The Future Might Look Like
Whether the carbon tax will actually increase cost of living through elevated energy prices is an entire debate in itself — and one wrought with public misunderstanding. According to The Australian Institute, the Treasury’s own modeling shows that a majority of households will actually be better off once they receive the government compensation associated with the carbon plan. Research by the Sydney Institute found that over 50 percent of voters think it will significantly increase fuel prices when fuel is actually excluded from the carbon pricing scheme.

In response to Rudd’s recent policy change to the carbon scheme, Abbott called carbon dioxide an “invisible substance,” stating, “It’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one.”

Ben Cubby, Environment Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, offered a concise breakdown of the politics behind this statement:

The phrase “so-called market” not only plays to the sympathies of people suspicious of money markets, it positions the Coalition as the party with the knowledge to discern real markets from fake ones. The “non-delivery” hints at Labor government unreliability, and the “no one” points to the ethereal nature of the carbon exchange mechanism … Best of all, “invisible substance” plugs into a medieval mistrust of scientists and their incomprehensible powers. It suggests that Abbott is prepared to wear some public ridicule in exchange for speaking directly to that part of his supporter base that is unmoved by scientific evidence about global warming.

Days ago, Abbott kicked off the Coalition campaign by pledging anew that his first order of business would be to scrap carbon pricing should he win the election. He restated his intention to replace it with a Direct Action Plan (DAP) to reduce the country’s emissions by 5 percent by 2020 — the same target as the current Rudd government has in place. The DAP relies on a Emissions Reduction Fund to support CO2 emissions reduction activity by business and industry rather than the alternative market-based Emissions Trading Scheme.

The DAP hasn’t been updated in three years and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of details — details that won’t be filled in until after the election, when they will come in a rush, as the Coalition has called for submission of a white paper within 30 days of the election, and for legislation to be released within 100 days and passed within 150.

A new analysis by the Climate Institute found that in order for Tony Abbott to keep his pledge to cut emissions by 5 percent by 2020 with the Direct Action Plan at least $4 billion will need to be added to that $2.5 billion that’s already been pledged over the next four years.

The analysis, based on modeling from Sinclair Knight Merz/MMA and Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies, shows that without the extra money Australia’s emissions would rise nine percent under Abbott. This would be the equivalent of doubling the number of cars on Australian roads, according to the analysis.

Under the current DAP the Coalition estimates that up to 60 percent of emissions cuts will come from paying farmers to store more carbon in their soil. This is a contentious assertion as soil carbon storage involves hard-to-measure approaches, such as reduced soil tilling to keep organic matter underground. Critics of direct action say the potential soil carbon savings are unrealistic.

A recent editorial in The Age concludes that:

The political rhetoric has been colorful, but the Coalition and Labor actually share a quiet consensus on climate change. Both parties have committed to unconditionally cutting Australia’s GHGs by five percent below 2000 levels by 2020. And both say they will increase the target to 15 or 25 percent depending on international climate action.

The Other Party

In 2010 the Australian Green Party played a crucial role in helping pass the Carbon Reduction Pollution Scheme, thanks to a hung Parliament in which Labor needed the support of the Greens for a majority.

When asked about the country’s carbon policy, Larissa Waters, Queensland’s first Senator from the Green Party, said that Australia has done a good job so far by starting with a five percent reduction goal by 2020 and then increasing that goal based on input from an independent scientific body. That way, the policy response can be adjusted over the years, making it a good model.

She went on to say, “Unfortunately, we’re possibly going to lose that with the new government. It’s a pretty big deal to ask Australia to take on mining companies.”

Australias Dirty Little Secret

With all this political back and forth over ways to mitigate carbon pollution, it’s important to keep in mind Australia’s dirty little secret: its booming export of coal. Coal exports have tripled in the past 25 years to more than 300 million tons and coal corporations want to double that figure. Even as the domestic coal industry struggles with dropping export prices, this is worrisome to those like Connor who believe that to achieve internationally agreed targets of global warming, only 20 to 40 percent of existing coal, gas and oil reserves in Australia can be burned. The rest must be left in the ground.

One of Connor’s biggest fears is that the country will emerge from all this political upheaval looking something like Canada has under the anti-environmental government of Conservative PM Stephen Harper.

“I look at Canada as a similar country, and it is my nightmare,” Connor said. “Australia can easily become an international pariah, we are very good at derailing international negotiations as an effective middle power and vicious defender of self interest. Some of the Coalition have been to Canada and seen how they get away with walking away from Kyoto and exploiting the tar sands.

“The transition away from fossil fuels is a very hard one culturally, socially and economically for Australia to make,” Connor continued. “We are on the knife edge of walking backwards or moving forwards in sensible way.”

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This post was originally published in ThinkProgress.

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9:10AM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

signed, thanks for sharing

8:46PM PDT on Aug 31, 2013

we all face the same issues the planet over.......

4:41AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Dan B and they still aren't..although the farmers are getting a little annoyed..strange bunch those farmers they hate the Greens and they're still the only ones that talk about climate change etc..but our two major parties have shifted focus again...now it's all things American...reminds me of the good'ol'days..you know "All the way with LBJ or was that little bush (jnr)..next target Syria..."now that will be interesting

3:13AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

8:42AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Nice catch Mandy. From what I have heard, the economy is still the top issue, by far. While global warming may be moving up the ladder, in the minds of the voters, it is still likely to take a back seat. Even the devate over the "carbon tax" is centered on the economic costs. Neither the voters nor the candidates appear to be placing the environment in the forefront.

5:13AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

My god you've cheapened our political system! They're going to be elected to be a PRIME MISTER, Australia is still technically part of the British Empire thus we DON'T have a president. Also they don't campaign anywhere near the same way that presidential candidates do, it doesn't go on anywhere near as long and nor do they spend anywhere near enough.
However both Abbot and Rudd are useless, I'm sure we will end up with another hung parliament and it will be up to independents to decide who the new Prime Minister, Climate Change isn't enough to swing the election one way or another. Again more examples of Care2 not researching properly and make stupid statements.

2:18AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

will be interesting to see how this plays out. On the one hand we can't reduce emissions because we don't have the labor force to make the conversion to clean energy, and on the other we can't hurt the coal mining industry because that will cost jobs

8:40PM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

Thanks Brian...have read about both..can't understand why the Government is so slow on the up take..well the elections are not far off..getting all very silly..glad when they're over..still hoping for a Hung Parliament..make them work for their money I say..

10:34AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

ros g I'm sorry, but I spelled it wrong. The company website is www.voith.com They have three offices in Australia Also Aquamarine Power, in Scotland has an Oyster 800 wave power generator that could possibly work well in Australia. Scotland also invented the AK1000, a giant wave power undersea turbine, capable of generating enough power for 1000 homes. Australia has very good wave power potential, and they should try to do everything they can to harness it.

9:56AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

rod g. Go to www.booth.com. The wave power company has three offices in Australia Also Aquamarine power based in Scotland is going ahead with a wave farm in Scotland.Australia has great wave power potential. I think they should look to Scotland, the world wave power leader, and try to advance their technology.

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