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Issue #1664      November 12, 2014

Climate change deniers, polluters run riot

Coal mining magnate Clive Palmer has joined forces with climate change deniers in the Abbott government to deliver exactly the sort of “carbon abatement” scheme Australians would have expected from those quarters. The “Direct Action Plan” is a pledge to the big polluters in Australia’s economy to do nothing significant to reduce carbon emissions. The previous government’s carbon tax, which was carefully crafted not to impede highly polluting business-as-usual too significantly, was scuttled in July. Its successor puts the country further behind comparable economies in terms of carbon emissions policy and compounds the climate emergency faced by the planet.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a report synthesising research since 1990 and the assessment is grim. “Science has spoken, there is no ambiguity in their message,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said. “The report found that the world is largely very ill-prepared for the risk of changing climate, especially the poor and most vulnerable, who have contributed least to this problem. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

While average temperatures creep up, the Arctic and the seas warm and permafrost melts releasing huge volumes of methane and carbon into the atmosphere, the Abbott plan reads as if there were plenty of time for real action. In spite of the threats, the government’s chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, has urged the country to prepare for global cooling.

Abbott has capped the amount of “direct action” funding at $2.55 billion – the only cap the PM is keen to talk about. Grants will be doled out to corporations that may or may not want to clean up their emissions act. If ever businesses exceed emission “baselines”, they can simply buy “credits” from other companies. There are supposed to be penalties for rogues that simply ignore these gentle guidelines but it is unclear what the penalties will be. This is a government that boasts about cutting “red tape”, i.e. removing regulation that’s in the public interest.

The verdict of experts on the woolly Abbott/Palmer “Direct Action Plan” is unanimous. It won’t do much or anything to reduce emissions. It won’t achieve the unambitious target of a 5 percent reduction on year 2000 levels by 2020. Clive Palmer, who stunned TV viewers with a joint press conference with climate change spokesman and former US presidential candidate Al Gore in June, claims he has secured important undertakings for backing the scheme he used to call “hopeless”.

The government will keep the Climate Change Authority it vowed to scrap. It will be tasked with examining trading scheme (ETS) proposals for possible adoption after the 2016 federal election. Environment minister Greg Hunt, however, insists that no such scheme will ever be endorsed by the Coalition.

“The government has set up a review into emissions trading schemes, even though it has vowed not to establish an ETS; this is a mess and an insult to the intelligence of Australians,” Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said. Authority chairman Bernie Fraser will head up this pointless 18-month inquiry.

The government is also moving to reduce the Renewable Energy Target (RET). The current target is set at 41 terawatt hours a year by 2020. That was expected to be 20 percent of overall energy consumption in the economy but that was before the quickening pace of de-industrialisation of the Australian economy had made its full impact felt. The new “target” will be 26 terawatt hours if the government gets its way. The renewable energy sector is facing a bleak future as the lack of official support causes investment to dry up.

It is disgraceful that the biggest contribution to reducing carbon emissions in Australia will come from the loss of thousands upon thousands of jobs and the destruction of the skills base necessary to maintain modern industry and safeguard national sovereignty. Clearly Abbott & Co aren’t interested in new industries that could help Australia and the world to steer onto a more sustainable course of development. Australia will be a quarry for the reckless extraction of the country’s natural resources until they are all gone. That’s the “plan”.

The Communist Party of Australia does not believe market mechanisms such as an ETS will serve to reduce carbon emissions. The chaotic nature of capitalist markets got the planet into the current predicament and won’t provide the way out. The CPA supports a genuine direct action plan that would legislate to make the big polluters pay and clean up their act. Sooner rather than later, major sectors of the economy will have to be brought under public ownership and control if we are going to be able to turn back from a climate change calamity.

Next article – Retired astronomer halts Santos’ CSG work

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