The new federal government seems set to take a comprehensive swipe at Labor’s climate policies: but the growing world-wide climate action movement will not be deterred.
Does climate change really matter?
Climate change is happening. The future effects and costs are recognised not just by the Climate Commission, but by our defence forces, insurance companies, the World Bank and many others.
Reducing CO2 emissions is an essential part of tackling climate change. However, the Coalition will close down the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, established to invest in renewable energy technologies such as Concentrated Solar Thermal Power. It will cut funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which provides research and development grants, and it will close down the independent Climate Commission.
It has also sworn to remove the iconic carbon price. Although this would have little effect without the rest of the clean energy package, other countries have been keenly watching Australia’s progress with this policy.
Few experts believe the Coalition’s alternative “Direct Action” policy can deliver the bipartisan target of 5 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020.
The words ‘solar’ and ‘renewable’ are completely missing from the Coalition’s Energy and Resources Policy document. However, ‘coal’ is mentioned 57 times, in policies to encourage and fast-track the development of new coal mines and boost coal exports.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Coalition regards climate change as a minor issue at best, and renewable energy as an unwanted threat to the traditional business of coal mining both for power generation and export.
What then is the challenge for local and national Climate Action groups? What can we do?
Selling our coal overseas may bring billions of dollars of export earnings to Australia, but it will cost us far more dearly when that coal is burnt. Banks are being pressed to reduce their investment in coal. Some superannuation companies are offering attractive green investment funds. Insurance companies could offer reduced premiums for energy efficient homes.
Despite discouragement and uncertainty in Australia, around the world both wind and solar energy (large and small scale) provide many jobs and are set to become cheaper than fossil fuel generation.
The growing social movement for renewable energy (e.g. www.solarcitizens.org.au) has already successfully challenged three Australian state governments that attempted to penalise households with rooftop solar. Meanwhile, community renewable energy projects are opening up to provide solar opportunities for a wider range of people.
The views of the new cross-bench senators are yet to be determined. They may play a big role in the government’s actions.
Locally, Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle will continue, with renewed effort, to support the community’s understanding of climate change and its belief and involvement in the urgent need for action.
Words: Dominic Case, Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle (www.climatechangebr.org).