The election of denial and delay
18 August 2010
Leading into this Saturday’s election, Greenpeace sent all Parties and sitting members our election asks.
The Greens are the only party that have responded directly to us. The Coalition and the ALP have released various relevant policies over the course of the election campaign.
The good news first. This is the short bit.
The ALP has announced the details of legislation to prevent the import of illegal timber. If implemented, the legislation will be world class and will, along with EU and US legislation, provide strong signals to illegal logging industries and countries that their markets are closing down. Greenpeace has been invited to be active participants in the development of the legislation.
The Greens, not surprisingly, continue to provide important environmental policies and leadership. They are supportive of all Greenpeace election asks.
Additionally, the Greens are likely to secure the balance of power. Perhaps they can use that leverage to bring the ALP and Coalition into the 21st century.
The bad news. On climate change there is, as Bernard Keane from Crikey has said “a bipartisan policy of protecting the economic interests of polluters.”
We are faced with two sets of bad climate policies that fail to achieve necessary cuts in emissions, fail to transition away from a pollution-driven economy and fail to show ambition, courage or leadership.
Both parties now promise they can reach a 5% emissions reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. It’s not clear what happened to the 25-40% cuts that the UN has said are necessary in order to avoid runaway climate change. Tony Abbott did mention during the election that he now accepts that we live on one planet. Maybe that’s a step forward. Gillard has announced that she accepts the science. She just prefers to ignore it.
The Coalition is running on a direct action platform. It will be an outrageously expensive taxpayer funded subsidy for the big polluters. They oppose a less expensive market mechanism, because it will be an impost on taxpayers.
On the other hand, the ALP is simply delaying any real action on climate change. They may or may not accept a price on carbon. They may or may not re-introduce an emissions trading scheme.
The ALP has released more detailed climate information during this campaign than the Coalition. They have announced cash for clunkers – high cost abatement with the funds being taken from the solar flagship programme. Their carbon farming initiative will be funded from the renewable energy future fund. They have announced some kind of pollution performance standard for coal fired power plants, but both the timing of the standard and its thresholds are likely to mean that it won’t prevent any of the 12 proposed new coal fired power plants from being constructed.
The ALP has made it clear it will not offend the big polluters by living up to its commitment to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. They took a creative approach to avoiding that commitment, announcing that Australia has no inefficient fossil fuel subsidies to eliminate! It is estimated that taxpayers hand over up to nine billion dollars annually in support of fossil fuels in Australia. Support for renewables is dwarfed by that figure.
The Coalition has not made many climate announcements during the campaign and has relied on policy announcements made in February and endless repetition that they are taking action. Their policy relies heavily on providing an income source for farmers but it isn’t clear that it will reduce our emissions. It certainly won’t reduce industrial emissions.
Neither party has a policy on genetically engineered (GE) food, except generally to support continued research, development and facilitation.
Neither party mentions labelling in their policies. The ALP has initiated a labelling review that will report back to Government before the end of the year. Greenpeace has called for full GE labelling and for labelling of fish products so that species, catch method and catch location are all identified on packaging and consumers can make informed choices about what they buy.
The Coalition has taken the spectacular backwards step of opposing further marine reserves in Australia. Incredibly, this bit of nonsense is coming from the recreational fishing industry, which obviously doesn’t believe the mountain of science that says closures increase the number and size of fish.
If 2007 was the climate election, 2010 is the election of denial and delay. It is difficult to overstate how poorly the major parties have performed on environmental issues that will affect the lives and livelihoods of all Australians for generations to come.