The Climate Change Authority may not survive very long, but it has offered us all a draft report on what ought to be done about the established 5 per cent reduction by 2020 on 2000 levels in greenhouse gas emissions, the reduction promised by the last government, with the support of the the Coalition. The Authority thinks that’s not enough, and that we should raise the target to 15 per cent, or even 25 per cent. And we can tell it what we think, too.
As I read what I could about the draft, I felt that the Authority is hanging on to what was thought to be ‘settled’ a few years ago, and that it had not considered the mass of evidence that has come in since 2009. Chairman Bernie Fraser said that the five per cent target ‘would leave Australia lagging behind others, including the United States’. Who exactly are we lagging behind? There are few countries that are taking seriously the notion that we should keep emissions down so that the rise in temperature doesn’t exceed 2 degrees Celsius, or are worrying about the 2020 target. In fact, I’m not sure that there are any.
Oh, there’s talk, but action is hard to find. If we are lagging behind the US, one reason is that the US suffered vastly more than Australia did in the global financial crisis, and American industry greatly reduced production, which meant that CO2 emissions declined.
Why do we want to do any of this anyway? Bernie Fraser accepted that there was a changing policy landscape, but felt that climate change was not going to go away just because the government had changed. I would argue that ‘climate change’ is ceasing to be the bogeyman that it was a few years ago, and that does affect the extent to which governments would spend time and energy on dealing with it. The changing policy landscape is really important, and Mr Fraser, who once was Secretary of the Treasury, should know that better than most.
If the Coalition Government does abolish the Authority then it would no longer be governed in any way by the recommendations that the Authority has made, and I do expect that in the legislation coming to Parliament there will be a bill, or a part of a bill, that simply brings the time of the Authority to an end. Then the targets will be irrelevant in policy terms.
The Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, has simply reiterated the government’s position, which is that it will wait to see what action the rest of the world has taken at the end of 2015, the ‘deadline’ for all this, before it decides what to do. The Climate Change Authority’s draft report, he said nicely, would be one of a range of factors bearing on that decision.
George Wright, the ALP Federal Secretary, told the National Press Club that Labor was ‘on the right side of history’ in the climate change debate, and that the party should stick to its guns. Heaven knows what history will say about this whole issue, but again my guess is that in say fifty years time people will wonder how we all got so exercised about it, and why so many people were so convinced that science in 2009 was thought to have the final answers on such a complex matter. Even the IPCC has backed off its apparently ‘settled’ science of 2009, though its confidence that we are responsible for whatever warming we are having is, paradoxically, higher than it used to be.
The Climate Institute, another of these NGOs that sees ‘climate change’ as the most important issue for everyone, has said that the Authority’s report will make it clear that politicians ‘won’t be able to continue to pretend that the rest of the world isn’t taking action’. The rest of the world? Come on! The countries that have signed up for the second Kyoto round — that which generates carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes — consist of the EU plus nine countries, one of them Australia.
And the EU is more divided about ‘climate change’ and its own ‘settled’ policies about how to deal with it than about anything else. Even in rich Germany there are hundreds of thousands of people who have had their electricity cut off because they can’t or won’t pay their bills. The UK is worried about ‘fuel poverty’. Poland wants to get into gas production even if it means fracking. Spain’s venture into alternative energy has been a fiscal disaster. I would bet a euro or two that if the EU could go back ten years, and rethink what it decided to do about ‘climate change’, it would rethink like a shot.
I know that the orthodox don’t like being told that there is a religious element in all of this, but it is hard not to see it when bodies like the Climate Authority and the Climate Institute, and members of the ALP all go on talking about ‘climate change’ as though nothing at all has happened since they first discovered the issue, and that ‘the science’ says one thing and one thing only. Do some reading, chaps. And some new thinking.