The first tumbrils approach the guillotine
Not even a week since the change of government, and the reign of terror has begun. The environment looks to be the first aristocrat to the guillotine. The Coalition Government does not seem to think that commercial reality, common sense or the laws of Australia apply when it comes to denying climate change.
You may remember the letter that then-Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott sent back in August directing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to suspend investments. Though happy to hold off from new investments during the caretaker period, the director of the CEFC rightly replied that the CEFC is a statutory authority established by a Commonwealth Act, and as such “Under the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012 it is not improper for the CEFC to continue to undertake its functions and apply the law as it is presently in force.”. In fact, subsection 64(1) of the Act requires directions to be made by legislative instrument, by the responsible Minister. In other words, in the exercise of a power delegated by the Parliament. Not just because Tony said so.
Similarly, the also-targeted Climate Change Authority is governed by the Climate Change Authority Act 2011: Part 2, Division 9, section 57. It offers the same protection.
Unfortunately, the third target, the Climate Commission, is not a statutory body, and it fell to the redcaps today.
But the wrong-headedness doesn’t end there. The CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report 2013 was recently released. This global report captures the voluntary disclosure of emissions by several hundred listed companies. The CDP found that 50 of the 500 largest listed companies in the world are responsible for nearly three quarters of the group’s 3.6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And the 50 largest emitters have increased their emissions since 2009. So whatever incentive structures are in place now, they are still inadequate.
The CDP did find that in deciding how to deal with emissions, companies are more likely to focus on tangible risks such as carbon taxes or energy prices rather than opportunities. So the stick of carbon pricing actually has an effect. Indeed at least a third of companies reporting saw cap and trade schemes as an opportunity rather than a risk.
So why is the Coalition so desperately keen to abandon any sensible action on climate change? They have not been so stubborn in the past. The shiny new Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann said in his 2007 maiden speech to Parliament, for example, “The government’s recent announcement of a national emissions trading scheme, including offsets for trade exposed industries, is a positive and sensible approach to addressing global warming.”
The LNP’s election platform was based on “Direct Action” as their environmental policy. We have no sensible explanation of Direct Action from the Coalition except a short-sighted “cut the tax” position. Never mind the consequences, this’ll get us elected. And it did.
Trouble is, we don’t really know anything at all about Direct Action. The one-page of fluff in “Our Plan” suggests that it involves an Emissions Reductions Fund, soil carbon technologies and abatement, and a 15,000-strong Green Army. The Green Army seems to be a brave attempt to combine work-for-the-dole and the sugarbag years of the Great Depression.
Apart from that we don’t really know. There seems to be some intention to directly invest in…something…
Our new Minister for Something, Greg Hunt, claims that Nobel economic laureates support “direct investment in technology”. PolitiFact Australia gives that a “half-true”. But if Direct Action is about direct investment, it makes the Coalition’s epistolary efforts to shut down the CEFC even more bewildering.
So instead of a workable, credible and comprehensible ETS, we are supposed to believe that “Direct Action” will deliver a laughably inadequate 5% reduction in emissions by 2020. If it doesn’t, who cares? Tony doesn’t.
We have no idea at all how Direct Action will incentivise the biggest companies and emitters in Australia to reduce emissions.
All we do know is that the Government will be taxing them an extra 1.5%. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it, now that the emissions trading scheme has been ditched.
Except that the 1.5% has nothing to do with action on climate change. It’s to part-fund the top-up to the already-generous Paid Parental Leave scheme.
OMG, paying people more to have children. It’s obviously part of a grand eugenic plan to grow the next crop of LNP voters. Or perhaps this is where the magical 15,000-strong Green Army is coming from.
Stupid. Just stupid.
But when you don’t believe women belong in Cabinet, and you don’t believe in climate change, and you think sport matters more than science, no surprise.