Eight years, 20 politicians: how Australian leaders fumbled and procrastinated on the climate

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Eight years, 20 politicians: how Australian leaders fumbled and procrastinated on the climate


Consistency is so much the last decade, don’t you think?

And the mea culpas? Never met.

In the last eight years of the Coalition’s rule, there have been more than 20 different climate and energy policies, which have been heralded with fanfare before taking a back seat, or simply being completely destroyed.

Here’s a quick look at what the past eight years have been like.

2013-14 – Action directe (ish)

After Tony Abbott repealed Labor’s carbon price, his new government replaced measures with direct action policy. It is described as “a program that will encourage companies to reduce their carbon emissions and, at the same time, minimize costs to industry and the Australian economy”. The emission reduction fund is a key element, set up to “directly support CO2 emissions reduction activities by business and industry ”. The original idea behind the ERF is that the government will pay for projects that will reduce CO emissions2 emissions “at the lowest cost”.

Its adequacy and impact are questioned from the start, and its impact in the real world is limited.

2017 – “It’s coal”

Scott Morrison brings a lump of coal to parliament and coos, “It’s coal. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. It won’t hurt you, ”before passing him around the front seat where he is cradled by Barnaby Joyce. At the same time, the Turnbull government insists it takes climate policy seriously.

2017 – Redesign of the clean energy target

Malcolm Turnbull is embarking on the design of a new energy policy to improve system reliability while reducing electricity emissions. Chief scientist Alan Finkel suggests the government adopt a clean energy target. This proposal lasts about five minutes. The rejection of the clean energy target leads to the National Energy Guarantee, which marks the end of Turnbull’s tenure as Prime Minister.

2017-18 – National Energy Guarantee (1, 2 and 3)

First mentioned at the end of 2017, the Neg imposes two obligations on energy distributors: to supply the market with sufficient quantities of “reliable” electricity and to reduce emissions between 2020 and 2030.

‘Have no fear’: Scott Morrison holds up a lump of coal in parliament. Photographie : Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Turnbull wants to legislate on the mechanism, but the proposal becomes mired in leadership tensions. With right-wing activists against him, he proposes to implement elements of the Neg through regulation rather than legislation.

When Morrison takes office as Prime Minister, he abandons the emission reduction component of the Neg altogether.

2018 – The liquidation of the RET (and the policy without a policy)

In 2013, Abbott attempted to oppose the renewable energy goal as well as Labor’s carbon price. This failed, but the project was criticized by the Coalition for bringing too much intermittent renewable energy into the electricity grid.

Five years later, as the RET expires in 2020, Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor says there will be no policy to replace it. “The truth is that the renewable energy target is going to stop from 2020, it peaks in 2020, and we will not replace it with anything,” he said. .

This contradicts advice from the Energy Security Council, which says investors and the market need political certainty to ensure orderly investments.

2018-19 – Default energy prices and big sticks

With the new climate policy in too hard a basket, the Coalition is focusing on energy prices. At this point, the Morrison government is still not ruling out investing in new coal-fired power plants.

“Big stick” policies are designed to give the government the power to dismantle energy companies if consumer prices do not fall. Ultimately, the government recoils from its threat of cession of power and the stick becomes more of a twig amid internal and external discord over the idea. Assignment powers range from full ministerial discretion to the advice of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and ministerial discretion, to no assignment powers.

A default market offer for energy prices is also introduced, forcing utilities to reduce their opening offers to customers and making it easier for consumers to find cheaper electricity plans. All of this is geared towards the upcoming 2019 elections, which the Coalition wins.

2018-20 – Coal is still king. Kind of

Faced with a possible explosion of the Nationals, Taylor launched the idea that taxpayers compensate new coal projects against all kinds of carbon prices.

“What we are saying are the risks that the government has to absorb to get investments in reliable production, we will seek to absorb them,” he said. “We need the investment.

Power companies are moving away from coal as generating assets age and have boosted prices for renewables. But the Nationals want to extend coal production. A standoff with private power companies is heating up over the future of their aging coal assets. The nationals propose the subscription by the taxpayers of the new coal production. But it does prove a red line for liberals in the metropolitan seats.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Photographie : Mike Bowers/The Guardian

There are internal tensions over the carbon risk and the refusal of banks to finance new coal projects. The Nationals go to war with the banks, accusing them of signaling virtue. But the Liberals argue that the banks are acting with caution.

2019-21 – Nuclear power could be king. May be

In another attempt to quell the rumblings within the National Party, some suggest nuclear power is a potential answer to everyone’s problems. A parliamentary inquiry is being set up to examine an Australian nuclear industry, which government MPs support and non-government MPs do not. Australia has a moratorium on nuclear energy on the one hand, on the other hand, there is no guarantee of commercial return, given the cost. And it is even with a carbon price, which the Morrison government is against. Nuclear energy is not carbon neutral and it is not renewable energy (uranium is finished).

Yet the nuclear debate continues. Now with the plea from News Corp.

2019 – No need to make changes

At a press conference ahead of his UN address in New York, Morrison said his government’s climate record had been “distorted” by the media.

When asked whether Australia intended to update its emission reduction commitments as required by the five-year review process of the Paris Agreement, he suggested that the goal of the Australia by 2030 is set: “We are meeting the commitments we have set and do you know why? This is what I am offering to the Australian people.

2019 – $ 1 billion for hydropower, gas and batteries

Turns out not having a stable climate policy isn’t great when it comes to investing. Thus, the government turns to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and offers up to $ 1 billion “to support government investments in new energy production, storage and transmission infrastructure, including pre-selected eligible projects. as part of the Underwriting New Generation Investments (UNGI) program ”. (Not the charcoal ones though.)

The investment is a bit of a turnaround from 2015, when Abbott tried to abolish the fund and then, when the Senate wouldn’t allow it, banned it from investing in large wind and solar projects.

2020-21 – Gas recovery

Of course, it’s still Australia, so the Clean Energy Fund and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency are seeing their mandates changed so that they can be used to finance and support fossil fuel projects, as long as ‘there is a carbon reduction project (so far failed). attached.

“There are no good and bad emission reductions,” says Morrison. There are only emission reductions. Reductions in emissions by different means do not have more or less important moral qualities.

Sydney climate rally in September 2020
A climate rally in Sydney in September 2020. Photograph: Dean Lewins / AAP

This is mainly done due to the “gas driven recovery” that the government decides to pull Australia out of Covid.

Gas is of course a fossil fuel. Gas recovery is the brainchild of the Covid Recovery Advisory Committee led by Nev Power, a former mining executive.

2020-21 – Technology roadmap

The past two years have all been about shifting roadmaps and horizons, so it makes sense that a tech roadmap is created to shape Australia’s climate policy. The takeaway? “Technology, not taxes”. Which ignores the fact that no one is proposing a tax, because we are not in 2010 and the world has moved on.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes its latest report, which concludes that we are running out of time to act meaningfully on the climate crisis. This increases the pressure on Australia from its main allies and trading partners – the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom, to commit to doing something. So far what Australia has proposed is considered insufficient.

A real plan is now apparently coming, but it has to overtake the Nationals first. There is a meeting on Sunday to discuss the plan, which aims to finally commit Australia to a net zero emissions target by 2050. No one is mentioning 2030.

2021 – Glasgow is gone

After initially saying his job is to stay and talk about the plan to Australians, not the international community, Morrison confirms he will attend the UN climate summit next month, where he will present the plan. climate from Australia to the world.

It should be borne in mind that the government is focused on everything to do with 2050, as the world moves towards mid-term goals for 2030. This debate is still unresolved in Australia.

It should also be borne in mind that net zero emissions do not mean zero emissions.

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