Malcolm Turnbull came to power stressing the need for flexibility to meet the challenges that face us.
The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative.
More than anything, we must not be afraid to do things that are new.
But in our greatest challenge, addressing climate change, he has promised to make no changes to policy under his leadership.
WA Liberal Dennis Jensen said “It’s one of the conditions of the leadership change that we are sticking with the policy we had. It’s also in the [Coalition] agreement with the Nationals, as I understand it.”
Another colleague said: “Turnbull gave two assurances to people who jumped into his camp: no change to marriage plebiscite and no change to Direct Action. But I fear we will now be softened up in the next couple of months leading into Paris talks with the argument that we didn’t want to get ahead but now that the world has acted, we need to do more, and if that happens, things could become very interesting for Turnbull.”
But as far as I remember it, the policy was to take action on carbon pricing if and when the rest of the world did.
In the run-up to the repeal of Labor’s carbon pricing regime, Abbott argued that other nations were also winding back their emissions trading schemes.
On an official trip to Canada, Tony Abbott told reporters that trading schemes were “being discarded”.
“There is no sign – no sign – that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted. If anything trading schemes are being discarded not adopted,” he said on June 8, 2014.
The UK press reported that “Australia is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters per capita but the government says it will now only move to a market-based emissions trading scheme if other big emitters do.”
In November last year, the US and China made a landmark joint announcement on reducing carbon emissions.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: I commend President Xi, his team and the Chinese Government for the commitment they are making to slow, peak and then reverse the course of China’s carbon emissions. Today I can also announce that the United States has set a new goal of reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions.
Now, after trialling a few systems in seven provinces, China is ready to upgrade to a nation-wide ETS in 2017. Announcing this market based mechanism by a communist country in the home of capitalism, where similar moves are being rejected by the Senate, was a strategic coup for China which highlights how in thrall the west is to the fossil fuel lobby.
China is not relying on these market-led cap-and-trade initiatives alone. It is also reducing coal consumption in its power sector through direct state intervention, and has been actively promoting solar photovoltaic and wind power through state-guided targeted investment, national planning, and local promotion programs. They are also offering a substantial contribution to help developing nations with energy efficiency.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt, rather than welcoming the move by China, gave a miserly reaction by pointing out that their emissions will continue to increase before peaking around 2030. On one hand he argues that we must lift people out of poverty by selling them coal and then uses their increasing emissions as an excuse for us to not take further action.
In December 2009, Lyndal Curtis interviewed Greg Hunt.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Is an emissions trading scheme off the Coalition’s agenda completely or just until the next election?
GREG HUNT: An emissions trading scheme is off the agenda until such time as the United States actually has an operating system in place. And that is when we will consider other options.
LYNDAL CURTIS: So not just legislation in place but a scheme actually up and running?
GREG HUNT: That’s the test at this point in time… there’s no way that the US will have a system operating within the next four years. And we know that from talking with the Americans. We know that from the legislative program. We know that from the time it’s going to take to develop their standards, their regulatory processes. That’s a given fact that it’s going to be four years before the US has an operating system.
So there is the conundrum for Malcolm. Will he deliver the promise that the Coalition actually made, to move to carbon pricing when other countries did, or will he let the deniers change the promise to what they thought they had said?
With Paris looming, there will be enormous scrutiny on Greg Hunt’s very dubious claims and the inadequacy of our policy, highlighted by a great deal of publicity. If Turnbull ignores the increasing call for action, he could well lose the next election on climate change alone.
There is no way that the Liberal Party will change leaders again before the next election. Just how many climate change deniers are there in the Coalition? Call their bluff Malcolm. Remind them of what your policy actually was.
Don’t be afraid to do things that are new.
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