Policies

Climate Change

Jun 09, 2016 UniPollWatch

Greens

The Greens position on climate change is certainly more ambitious than the two major parties. Greens leader Richard Di Natale said in an address at the Lowy Institute last month that global warming is an issue of “national security” and “left unchecked is a direct threat to our very existence.”
The Greens believe that Australia’s economic future is clean and green or there is no future at all. They plan to establish Renew Australia – a $500 million government authority whose job would be to plan, construct and drive the transition to new and clean energy generation over the next four years.
Under the Greens policy there would be no new coal or gas mines or expansions, and once a power station rises above the set pollution target, the energy regulator can order it to be decommissioned.
Senator Di Natale also told the Lowy Institute that “in Australia, the cost of forging ahead with those new coal mines is that we drive our neighbours in the Pacific from their homes.” As well as transitioning away from coal, the Greens policy includes tax breaks for households and businesses that attach battery storage to their clean energy systems, re-implementing carbon pricing for pollution from mining and funding to help the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef.

POLICY SUMMARY

60 to 80% greenhouse gas emissions reductions below 2000 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040.
90% renewable energy generation by 2030.
Create a $250 million Clean Energy Transition Fund that will assist coal workers and communities with the transition to clean energy, through training and re-skilling programs and investment support for new businesses.
Gradual staged closures of coal fire power stations between the introduction of the policy and 2030.
Scrapping coal miners tax-free fuel subsidy, saving the government $6 billion a year.
Implementing a thermal coal export levy of $3 per tonne. The levy would not apply to destination countries with a price on pollution.
A 50% refundable tax credit to assist with the cost of household energy storage systems. An estimated 1.2 million homes could be supported over five years of the program.

Explanation

The Greens again hold the strongest position on climate change policy, and Mr Di Natale recently attacked the current Turnbull Government’s policy, saying that Australia “is the only country in the world to undo strong action on climate change.” But despite Australia’s backwards step, this election the Greens climate policy is more ambitious.

In 2013 they went to the ballot box promising net zero emissions by 2050, compared to 2040 this time around. Their renewable energy target of 90%  by 2030, however, remains the same as three years ago. Carbon pricing is another continuing feature of Greens policy and they were successful in having it briefly implemented as a condition of supporting the Gillard Government following the 2010 election.

A new direction for the Greens in 2016 is the structured Renew Australia plan that details a specific closure timeline for Australia’s fossil fuel power stations. The policy also outlines funding, expected to reach $1 billion over the next 15 years to help transition workers and communities into the new clean energy age, through creation of new jobs, training and re-skilling programs and funding to assist new industries to move affected areas.

With climate change policy seemingly dropping off the radar of the major parties, this could be the Greens avenue to gain some traction for its policy. This policy will see the government take a more influential approach in the electricity market, away from the current liberalised approach, by offering long-term contracts to private sector operators and guaranteeing them a minimum price for power. The Greens argue this is necessary due to “the size of the transformation” and “the speed at which we need to transform” which means “the market cannot achieve the necessary transformation in the required timeframe on its own.”

Labor

Labor’s climate change policy revolves around a six point strategy that includes improving energy efficiency, transitioning away from coal to a renewable energy economy, a carbon farming initiative and building job opportunities for clean energy and technology.
A key feature of Labor’s policy is the reintroduction of an emissions trading scheme for heavy polluters, defined as those who emit more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon pollution annually.
Labor has promised to introduce a 2025 emissions reduction target within one year, if elected, and also implement five year reviews to ensure policy goals are on track and continually updated. They will reverse the current government’s intention to abolish the Climate Change Authority at a cost of $17.4 million, an authority which is supposed to serve as the federal government’s principal source of climate policy advice, especially on emissions targets.
Labor also aims to double Australia’s energy productivity, introduce new emissions standards tests for motor vehicles, support efficient building design and ensure that the Commonwealth is a direct purchaser of renewable energy (50% by 2030).
Under Labor’s policy a Strategic Industries Taskforce as well as a $300 million reserve fund over three years will be established to assist emissions intensive, trade exposed industries (such as coal, steel, cement and aluminium) transition to and ensure future competitiveness in a low-carbon economy.

POLICY SUMMARY

Net zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.
45% greenhouse gas emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.
50% renewable energy generation by 2030.
A $206.6 million investment in the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for concentrated solar thermal funding. Concentrated solar thermal technology uses lenses and reflectors to concentrate sunlight to heat fluid such as water or oil to produce steam to drive a turbine. An advantage of this method is that power output can be adjusted based on grid demand making it more flexible than traditional solar power.
A $98.7 million investment to establish a Community Power Network and Regional Hubs. The Network and Hubs will be tasked with implementing renewable energy solutions in social and community housing, rental properties and apartment buildings.
A $500 million down payment for science and research for the Great Barrier Reef, including improvement of water quality, land management, agriculture and transport sustainability.
Reduce the emissions intensity for all light vehicles from 192 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre to 105 grams per kilometre in 2025.

Explanation

Labor first proposed an emissions trading scheme when Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister, although it was called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also previously preferred an emissions trading scheme and even crossed the floor of parliament to support it in 2010. Rudd’s scheme however, was eventually defeated as the Greens and others considered it too watered down to be effective. When Julia Gillard became Prime Minister in mid-2010, she worked with the Greens to put a price on carbon emissions, however, the carbon tax was axed by the Abbott government in 2014 despite evidence it was effective in reducing emissions.

This time around, the scheme will be introduced in two phases and differs from previous policies as it separates the electricity sector and the business sector. Phase one for businesses will run from July 2018 to June 30, 2020 and phase two from then onwards.

No price will be imposed on entities exceeding their cap in phase one, but liable entities will be required to purchase an equivalent number of carbon offset units for that year. Offset units are reductions or abatement of greenhouse gas emissions achieved by energy efficiency measures or by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil or trees. Offsets could be sourced locally or internationally.

The framework for phase two will be determined during the first phase but will involve pollution levels being capped and reduced over the course of the decade. Labor leader Bill Shorten is keen to avoid any association with a carbon tax that brought the Gillard government undone, and has stressed there will be no fixed price on pollution.

Overall, Labor’s policy has been welcomed by several authorities, such as Doctors for the Environment and The Climate Institute as a step in the right direction. Labor’s plan certainly involves substantially more reductions than their Coalition counterparts, with The Climate Institute chief executive John Connor saying in a media release that “the ALP’s stronger pollution reduction commitments would set Australia on a path to limit global warming to 1.5 to two degrees Celsius.”

Connor said that all existing coal burning power stations need to be replaced with clean energy within 20 years, and while Labor has said it will begin to withdraw the heaviest polluting generators, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised Labor’s policy for not explaining how it will be done or how much it would cost.

Labor’s plan appears weak to the Greens in this regard, who have already released a timeline of phasing out coal power stations by 2030. Mr Shorten, however, responded to the Prime Minister’s comments during the National Press Club leaders’ debate, saying there is also “a cost to not acting on climate change.”

“We don’t want to be a government who passes on harder problems to our kids because we were too politically scared to act in the best interests of Australia,” said Mr Shorten.

Doctors for the Environment said the Strategic Industries Task Force and reserve fund was particularly important in the transition from coal and will help avoid significant unemployment during the process, but said the policy didn’t go far enough to rule out no new coal mines.

 

Liberals

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the Coalition’s policy to the National Press Club as “practical action on climate change,” saying he is committed to making it work.
The current government proposes modest emission reduction targets by 2030, combined with doubling the amount of renewable energy generation in Australia over the next four years. The Liberal’s maintain Australia “will meet [its] targets without Labor’s carbox tax, which made electricity more expensive.”
To do this, the Liberal’s will increase funding for the Emissions Reduction Fund, maintain the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), support carbon farming and energy efficient lighting for town councils.
The Liberal’s policy also involves a long term sustainability plan for the Great Barrier Reef, the launching of Australia’s first threatened species strategy, an Australian heritage strategy to support and promote natural, historic and Indigenous heritage sites and a capital dredge disposal ban in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

POLICY SUMMARY

26 to 28% greenhouse gas emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.
23% renewable energy target for 2020.
A $1 billion investment in the Clean Energy Innovation Fund to encourage new technology in the transition to clean energy.
A $2.55 billion commitment to the Emissions Reduction Fund for incentives for businesses to reduce their emissions.
A 2050 long term sustainability plan that sees $2 billion for government projects for the Great Barrier Reef such as improving water quality, reducing sediment and nitrogen run off, removing crown of thorns starfish and improving scientific knowledge.
A $1 billion investment in the National Landcare Programme for natural resource management.
$50 million to plant 20 million trees by 2020.

Explanation

The Liberal’s greenhouse gas reduction targets come in at well below the Climate Change Authority’s 45 to 65% recommendation to keep global warming to below two degrees.

The Climate Institute boss John Connor has described the government’s current measures as “inadequate” and their 2030 targets were consistent with three to four degrees global warming and not the 1.5 to two agreed on in Paris.

Australia chose, with bipartisan support, a 2020 reduction target at the low-end of the globally recommended five to 25% , and Prime Minister Turnbull maintains his government is on track to “exceed [it] handsomely.”

Mr Turnbull told the National Press Club during the leaders’ debate last month that Australia has to cut its “emissions between 2020 and 2030 by about 900 million tonnes” and his government has the means and knows how much it will cost.

The Coalition’s policy of 26 to 28% reductions of 2005 levels by 2030 has been criticised however, as 45% reductions is perceived as the floor, not the ceiling, to limit warming below 1.5 degrees. It is also noted that, although the Turnbull government supports net zero emissions, it is yet to set a timeline to achieve it.

A key component of the Coalition’s policy is the Emissions Reduction Fund, which is essentially paying polluters such as miners and farmers to encourage them to stop polluting – a carbon tax in reverse. So that begs the question – should the taxpayers have to pay to stop big business from polluting or should the polluter have to pay to keep polluting?

Environment Minister Greg Hunt told the National Press Club recently that the government had to do the “bulk of the lifting,” but that approach has been labelled inefficient by the Climate Institute which said the Emissions Reduction Fund had already used up 67% of its budget for only a three per cent reduction of the emissions required to meet Australia’s Paris objectives.

Another $2.55 billion in funding is welcome and needed, but whether the cost justifies the output (as in emissions reductions), remains to be seen.

This hasn’t always been the Liberal’s approach. Former Prime Minister John Howard promised to bring in a ‘cap and trade’ emissions trading scheme before he lost the 2007 election, and current leader Malcolm Turnbull even crossed the floor to support the measure in 2010 when in opposition.

The Climate Institute welcomed the decision in the Coalition’s policy to maintain the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA, and also the $1 billion investment in a Clean Energy Innovation Fund, but reaffirmed that Australia needs an “urgent transition from an energy system reliant on burning coal to one based on clean energy within two decades.” The government’s approval of the new Adani Carmichael coal mine in last year seems to work in the opposite direction.

Turnbull is understandably sensitive when it comes to climate change schemes – it contributed to his demise as leader first time round and Labor also lost an election after the carbon tax. The Coalition’s policy is the least ambitious of the three parties (Coalition, ALP and the Greens) putting the health of the Australian economy ahead of deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

This policy is brought to you by Monash University, La Trobe University

News on Climate Change