Part 3: Labor’s climate policy: so will we reach our paltry targets?

August 18, 2010 at 1:26 am 1 comment

And we continue our special series on the Labor Party’s 2010 climate policies. Part one is here, and part 2 here. This edition, we discuss rewarding businesses for being responsible, chopping down trees that according to Labor don’t really exist, and we look at where we’re headed under Labor and where we need to go.

Rewarding business for energy efficiency

(hopefully they’ll turn off some lights too)

A one-off bonus tax deduction for businesses that undertake energy-efficiency capital works, starting from mid-2011. Cost of $180 million over four years, and $1 billion over a decade. Plus, in the meantime an extra $30 million for the Green Building Fund, which provides grants for retrofitting buildings. This is sensible, and could go even further. Wonder how long it will be before they start taking funding away from this one?

Rewarding business by freezing time

The government will keep emissions baselines frozen in time, rewarding businesses that reduce or constrain emissions before an ETS is introduced. If only we could freeze the entire world in time until Labor is ready to implement meaningful climate policies.

Green Start

(another embarrassing name change)

This policy replaces the Greens Loans Scheme, which offered interest-free loans to improve household energy efficiency, another scheme which had… issues. To make a fresh start (see what they did there?) Green Start scrapped the loans part and now offers energy assessments and some other vague unspecified energy efficiency help. Nobody knows, basically.

Photo: Peter Halasz

Native forest logging and logging and logging

Labor is arguing in international forums that emissions created from native forest logging should not be counted. Even though Victoria’s native forests are the most carbon rich in the world. And even though deforestation of native forests accounts for 20% of Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions. Labor also says it is committed to a ‛net increase’ in Australia’s ‛vegetation cover’. Oooh, goody, more pine tree plantations where there used to be native forests!

Emissions target shooting

(too little, too late)

Just to recap. The IPCC is a group of scientists who issue comprehensive assessments on climate science. Their report states that to keep global warming at under 2 degrees celsius, Australia as a developed country needs to reduce emissions 40% lower than 1990 levels by 2020. HOWEVER, the IPCCs reports are always on the conservative side because it is a U.N. body and the world’s governments must approve their contents.

So here comes the really hard to take bit. Don’t worry, we’ll get through it together. Recent research by some of the world’s eminent climate scientists shows that to have a better than even chance of keeping global warming below two degrees, and on the basis of fairness where each person in the world should be allowed equal emissions levels, we Australians need to reduce our emissions to zero in ten years. ZERO emissions. In ten years. And that’s just for a 67% chance of staying below two percent, which is really dangerously high because even at our current 0.8 degree warming we are seeing some pretty scary extreme weather events, biodiversity loss, water shortages, bushfires, ocean acidification and so on. And people dying, you know.

So what is Labor’s target? IF the whole world first agrees to curb CO2 levels at 450ppm (too bad the science says the safe level is around 300ppm), THEN Labor will commit to a 25% reduction by 2020. AND THEN they will seek an election mandate for more ambitious cuts (in other words, let’s delay a bit longer).

And in the meantime, until the ENTIRE WORLD agrees on targets first, Labor will aim for 5­-15% cuts by 2020 (compared to 2000 levels, when the rest of the world is basing their cuts on 1990 levels, because we are just so special that different rules apply to us.)

So Labor’s target is 5-15% emissions cuts in ten years (compared to 2000) when what we actually need is zero emissions by that time. That’s a bloody big difference.

Will we reach our paltry targets under Labor?

Labor’s election promises on climate would result in emissions 19% HIGHER than 1990 levels by 2020 (according to the Climate Institute). The IPCC reports that developed countries need cuts of 40% LOWER than 1990. Even by conservative IPCC standards this is pathetic.

In a nutshell?

We’re in deep doodoo.

Unless we step up and work together. Whoever wins this election, get active with your local climate action group if you haven’t already. Here in Victoria, our work this year alone has achieved amazing things. We have managed to get the State Government on the back foot on coal-fired power. We have achieved a commitment to close one quarter of Australia’s dirtiest power station, and it looks like a full replacement with clean energy is in the works. We are campaigning in the federal seat of Melbourne, talking to people about voting climate. And it looks like the one party with half decent climate credentials might just get in elected in that seat.

Imagine what we could achieve if across the country more and more Australians worked together on this. We don’t need to leave it up to politicians. They work for us.

-Jane Pike

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Part 2: Labor’s climate policy funding shuffle dance Energy Basics

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