May 18: The Climate Election

The outcome of the May 18 election will determine the future of climate policy in Australia, and the Smart Energy Council has circulated a reality check of what’s at stake with full details of party policies. The Council has also issued a reminder that for five years the Liberal and National parties have tried to shut down renewables, despite the rise in emissions and more extreme and wild weather caused by climate change.

 Chief executive John Grimes listed the Coalition’s actions or intent in recent years:

·       To abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). 

·       To abolish the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

·       To abolish the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and then separately abolish any support for household solar.

·       To lock out renewables through a so-called National Energy Guarantee with a tiny emissions target.

·       To lock in coal through subsidies and ‘fair dinkum power’ propaganda, and

·       From next year, the large-scale RET ends.

“The Liberal and National parties will replace the RET with… nothing. They have no climate policy. They have no energy policy,” he said.

Under the Coalition Australia's target for 2030 is to reduce emissions by at least 26 per cent below 2005 levels, a target that puts Australia at or near the bottom of a group of countries we “generally compare ourselves with" according to the Government's Climate Change Authority.

The cuts in emissions is estimated at about a third of what's needed to prevent more damaging climate change.

“If the Coalition holds on to power at the upcoming federal election, renewables will be locked out and coal will be locked in,” John Grimes said.

At last weekend’s ALP campaign launch former prime minister Paul Keating was vocal in his condemnation of the Coalition’s backward-looking policies and support for outdated technology.

“Coal was the fuel of the industrial revolution 250 years ago,” he said, [but] “It's all over. There's the Prime Minister walking around with a lump of coal. Coal is a fossil. The Prime Minister is a fossil himself, a fossil with a baseball cap, but a fossil.

“This is the land of sun. So this is the place, perhaps first in the world, where renewables could be the primary source of energy. Yet, we have the Liberals going back to Mr Stephenson's steam train of 250 years ago.”

John Grimes says “If you care about the renewable energy industry, or the environment, a vote for the Liberal or Nationals is about the dumbest move you could make. The people need to smash them so hard that they drop the anti renewables and anti climate stuff once and for all.

“That is why the work of conservative independents is so important including Oliver Yates in Kooyong and Zali Steggall in Warringah who says the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action, and many more around the country.

“These independents need to shift the Liberals and Nationals on climate and energy.

“After this election we need all sides to agree on the importance of our industry and to get real on climate change.”

The key messages are: Don’t vote for anyone who wants to wreck renewables;

Vote for the clean, affordable renewable energy Australia deserves, and

Vote for people who want to be build renewables, not kill them.

Watch the Smart Energy Council video showing that renewable energy is at risk at this election: (pinned tweet)

If elected Labor will strengthen Australia's 2030 target to 45 per cent based on scientific evidence and is offering stronger policies and a massive build program, to double large-scale renewables over the next decade and to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Labor would also establish a program to deliver storage batteries for 1,000,000 homes (see more details in next feature), $10 billion more for the CEFC for a renewables grid, support for electric vehicles and training for renewables apprentices.

Labor has also proposed an expansion of the Coalition's existing cap-and-trade system ("safeguard mechanism") to cover more large businesses, and to institute something similar to the Coalition's abandoned National Energy Guarantee, to drive down emissions from both industry and the electricity sector.

The Greens want to go much further and much faster, namely to:

·       Phase out coal, move to 100 per cent renewables and deliver cheap, clean and reliable energy for homes, businesses and industry

·       Create 180,000 new jobs in renewables, including a renewable energy export industry to replace coal exports

·       Provide support for coal workers and communities as coal is phased out

·       Create Power Australia, a not-for-profit, public energy retailer for renewables  

·       Prioritise and properly fund clean, safe, affordable public and active transport

·       Kick start the electric vehicle revolution and reduce the cost of electric vehicles, and

·       End political donations from mining companies

The Greens plan would deliver cheaper energy bills, including support for renters and small business owners to access clean and reliable renewable energy and drive billions of dollars of investment in renewable energy.

John Grimes said “We need to fast track renewables, and act on our climate as if time is running out - and it is.

“People vote for a party or candidate for lots of reasons … but this time vote strategically.

“Choose any of the candidates or parties who want to lock renewables in. Just make sure you put the Liberals and Nationals right near the bottom. We have to shift them.  It is just too important not to.”

News bulletins have featured the mobilisation of groups across the country calling for action on climate change. Environmental groups have stepped up actions and words, school students have been striking and other concerned groups calling for action.

The convoy of anti-Adani campaigners attracted thousands of like-minded protesters as they made their way along the east coast to the Galilee Basin. The Bob Brown led convoy concluded its peaceful protest last weekend at Parliament House in Canberra where another peaceful protest was staged.

A polling of more than 1,200 Australian company directors revealed climate change was the number one issue they want the government to address in the long-term.

The ANU Climate Change Institute has stated that in an ideal world, decision-making would be based on robust comparison of the benefits and costs of various levels of emission reduction and climate adaptation actions, addressing economic, environmental and social angles.

“Unfortunately the current debate is overwhelmingly focused on just the immediate economic costs. In doing so, it presents a negative picture which becomes intentionally or unintentionally a barrier to action.

“As we've seen with the roll-out of renewables, the benefits of climate action can far exceed the costs.  The same goes for climate impacts more broadly – the costs of not acting on climate change are huge. Ultimately, these will be in the tens of trillions of dollars a year globally, dwarfing the costs of action.  The challenge here for policy is that short-term costs are far easier to calculate than the cumulative benefits over decades, particularly the non-monetary benefits.

“Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that if we do it well, action on climate change will not only save us money, it will save many lives, improve quality of life and reduce environmental degradation. It will also open up huge opportunities for Australian innovation,” the ANU Climate Change Institute says.

Last words – and a warning to world leaders – comes from naturalist Sir David Attenborough "Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.

"Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands."