Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change Authority’


Liberals Part 1: Climate denial and deregulation

11 January 2013

Almost all of my posts to date have focused on criticizing Australia’s incumbent Labor government. I have written very little about the alternate Liberal/National Coalition government. But as we enter an election year, it is time to examine the Liberals’ policies.

Can the Liberals be trusted?

To begin with, it is worth noting that the Liberals have given us every reason to distrust them on climate change.

According to a 2010 survey, only 38% of Coalition politicians accept that humans are warming the planet (compared to 98% of Greens, in line with the scientific consensus, and 89% of Labor politicians). Liberal and National politicians regularly spout denialist talking points, up to and including their leader Tony Abbott. Most notoriously, Abbott reportedly said in 2009 that the science of climate change is “complete crap” but “the politics of this are tough for us”. In 2010 Abbott met with Christopher Monckton, a man who claims climate scientists are conspiring to fake their results in a plot to create a socialist world government. In a speech to the Mining Council of Australia in 2011, Abbott said “the authors of the carbon tax do not see coal, oil and gas as the most important parts of our economy” but “as a threat to the very survival of our planet”, the obvious implication being that his party disagrees. In 2011 former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard launched a book instructing schoolchildren to raise denialist arguments in the classroom. Queensland’s Liberal National government wants to remove climate from the school curriculum, and its Premier and Environment Minister openly deny human-caused global warming.

I could list many more examples. Indeed, it would probably be quicker to list Coalition politicians who have never publically made denialist claims.

Almost all of the Liberals’ actions mark them as an anti-climate party. The Liberals did not take any significant climate action during the eleven years of the Howard government. They consistently prioritize short-term economic considerations like mining industry competitiveness and electricity prices ahead of climate change. Today they are putting way more effort into opposing Labor’s climate policy than in designing and promoting their own (the former is the subject of this post; the latter will be covered in Part 2). Thus it is questionable whether they would even implement their climate policy, let alone whether it would work. Read the rest of this entry ?


Response to RET Review

19 December 2012

Today the Climate Change Authority (CCA) released the final report of its Renewable Energy Target review. It repeats all the same arguments I debunked in my response to the discussion paper released in October, and makes similar recommendations (though some of the details have been refined).

The RET Review fails to acknowledge that Australia and the world urgently need to phase out fossil fuel burning to avoid dangerous climate change, and the policies in place are completely inadequate to do so. Instead, on most matters it insists the status quo must be maintained to minimize policy uncertainty. But climate policy will be subject to uncertainty for the foreseeable future anyway, because it challenges powerful interests, so the best way to design the RET is to send the strongest signal possible to incentivize investment in renewable energy. The reason for the existence of a Climate Change Authority and regularly scheduled reviews is to provide regular opportunities to strengthen Australia’s climate policies and thus accelerate decarbonization over time. CCA’s rigid determination to recommend little change is creating the ludicrous situation where the body is making itself irrelevant.

CCA refuses to recommend increasing or strengthening the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET). It recommends future reviews be scheduled at four-year instead of two-year intervals (though fortunately unscheduled reviews can be commissioned at any time by the Minister, the Parliament, or CCA itself). It envisages the 2016 review will consider the issue of post-2020 targets, and rules out consideration of accelerating renewable energy deployment before 2020 except “in the event of extenuating circumstances” (p. xi); it is unclear what would qualify as such a circumstance. The problem with this is that the RET is currently inadequate, a higher target is needed to incentivize new projects, and accelerating action cannot wait until 2016 or 2020. Read the rest of this entry ?


Doha climate talks: battlelines

3 December 2012

This is the second installment of a three-part blog post about the ongoing Doha climate talks (COP18). Part 1 recaps the history of the negotiations up to 2011; this part covers this year’s battlelines; and Part 3 outlines my opinion on what should happen in Doha and why it matters.


After governments had loudly proclaimed the Durban Platform as progress, interim negotiations held in Bonn, Germany in May showed countries have very different visions of what it is supposed to produce.

On the ambition workplan (in my opinion the most promising result of Durban), AOSIS and the LDCs rightly advocated urgent action to close the ambition gap before Kyoto 2 targets are set in Doha, and the EU argued global emissions should peak before 2020, but the US argued for any avenue other than a higher target for itself under the UNFCCC, Australia emphasized international emissions trading mechanisms, and India saw the workplan as relating to after 2020, claiming it must wait for the IPCC AR5. India’s position is blatantly obtuse, because the workplan’s reason for existence is clearly to raise ambition now and we don’t need another report to tell us current pledges are utterly inadequate. Small island states took the lead by pledging to cut their emissions by a collective 45% by 2030.

On the platform for a future global agreement, AOSIS, the LDCs, and the EU advocated urgent negotiation of a new protocol (the LDCs also advocated decisions be made by a three-quarters majority instead of consensus), while the US and Australia foresaw a period of brainstorming, and India said the promised “agreed outcome with legal force” could include non-binding decisions. Developing nations defended the sharp distinction between responsibilities of rich and poor, repeating their longtime demand that rich countries cut emissions 25-40% by 2020 (based on the IPCC AR4), while the EU argued for a spectrum of commitments based on evolving responsibilities. Read the rest of this entry ?


Response to RET Review discussion paper

15 November 2012

I have submitted feedback (which you can read here) to the Climate Change Authority (CCA) on its Renewable Energy Target review discussion paper, released last month containing draft recommendations. A report with final recommendations will be released by 31 December.

In September, I wrote:

The RET review will be a key test of the Greens’ climate strategy. The Greens argued the independent reviews would provide regular opportunities to improve climate policies in future. The RET review is the first test of whether it will play out that way, or if the reviews will instead be regular opportunities for polluting industries to sabotage climate policies. The role of the Climate Change Authority is crucial, as in 2014 it will be tasked with recommending five years of emissions targets. The Authority is as yet an unknown quantity (though I am concerned that two board members have conflicts of interests). Will the Authority prove to be a strong advocate for climate action, or will it fall prey to the siren songs of vested interests?

So far, it appears the answer is neither, with a bit of the latter. On the one hand, the discussion paper rejects the proposals by 25% of submissions (almost all from businesses and business lobby groups) to abolish the RET or decrease the 2020 Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET). It acknowledges the RET plays an important role and the possibility of overachieving is not a bad thing (CCA estimates renewables will meet 25% of demand in 2020 instead of 20%). On the other hand, it completely ignored the 41% of submissions calling for the RET to be increased and/or strengthened (99% if you count the 8,500 submissions in the GetUp! campaign to increase the 2020 target and the Hepburn Wind campaign for a post-2020 target). It recommends neither increasing the 2020 target, nor introducing post-2020 targets, nor making Clean Energy Finance Corporation investments additional, nor strengthening the policy in any other way. Read the rest of this entry ?


Roundup of RET review submissions

3 October 2012

I’ve been through every submission to the Climate Change Authority review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET), and categorized them by their recommendations (background on the review here).

The categories are as follows:

  • “Increase” = increase the 2020 Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET). This category includes recommendations that the Government recognize the urgency of climate action, set targets of up to 100% renewable energy by 2020, make complementary policies and voluntary action additional to the RET, replace the present Renewable Energy Certificate scheme with a feed-in tariff, and/or limit the scope of future reviews to strengthening the RET. My submission (here, with commentary here) falls into this category.
  • “Strengthen without changing 2020 target” = strengthen the RET without necessarily increasing the 2020 LRET. This category includes calls to increase targets beyond 2020, make Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) investments additional to the LRET, revise the trajectory so it goes up each year, index the shortfall charge, and/or improve the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES).
  • “Status quo” = no change. Usually the justification given for this recommendation is to give investors certainty.
  • “Weaken” = weaken the RET, usually enough to significantly sabotage the policy goal. This category includes proposals to adjust the LRET to lower demand forecasts, abolish or cap the SRES, reduce the solar multiplier to less than 1, expand the definition of “renewable energy” to include low-emissions technologies or carbon capture and storage, link to international renewable energy targets, phase out the RET after 2020, and/or abolish state-level renewable energy policies.
  • “Abolish” = terminate or phase out the RET. The typical justifications were that the carbon price makes the RET redundant, that the RET is inefficient and costs consumers, and/or that it should be replaced with funding for R&D.
  • “Other” = does not quite fit into any of my categories. Submissions in this category may advocate particular technologies, may communicate pertinent facts or discuss issues without making specific recommendations, may be too technical for me to judge, or may just be plain incomprehensible. Read the rest of this entry ?

Why the RET review matters

18 September 2012

Last week, I made a submission to the Climate Change Authority review of Australia’s federal Renewable Energy Target (RET). In August, the Climate Change Authority released an Issues Paper on the review, inviting public submissions (which closed on 14 September, but you can still have your say in a poll by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition). A discussion paper with draft recommendations will be released in October, followed by final recommendations by 31 December. The Government must respond within six months.

The RET review is the first in a series of independent reviews of climate policies, intended to allow them to be strengthened, secured by the Greens in last year’s Multi-Party Climate Change Committee negotiations in return for agreeing to initially inadequate and potentially ineffective policies. However, a number of businesses and business lobby groups invested in fossil fuels are using the review as an excuse to demand the RET be weakened.

An internal document obtained by the Australian Financial Review in April showed the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network is lobbying for the RET to be to scrapped or weakened. Meanwhile, TRUenergy has joined Origin Energy in its more public campaign to weaken the RET. These two “gentailers” (companies who both generate and retail electricity) argue the RET should be adjusted downward so that it accounts for no more than 20% of 2020 demand. Such a move would cause renewable energy deployment in Australia to stop completely in 2016, with only gas-fired electricity generation built post-2016:

Projected new and retired electricity generation capacity under the reduced Renewable Energy Target advocated by TRUenergy. Green and purple bars are renewable energy sources; dark blue and red are gas-fired; light blue are retirements. (Image source: Renew Economy.) Read the rest of this entry ?