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Issue #1701      September 9, 2015

Editorial

Abbott isolated on climate change

If you relied on the Murdoch press and the rest of the corporate media for your information, you could be excused for thinking climate change is no longer a major concern in the community. The Abbott government has cobbled together a supremely unambitious and non-specific emissions reduction “plan” to take to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December but very few are applauding. There is even a growing sense of alarm in business circles that the federal government’s recklessness is helping to make the world unsafe for profit-making.

Team Abbott is banking that Murdoch and the Coalition’s backers in the coal lobby will prevail. They have been presenting the proposed 26-28 percent reduction on 2005 level emissions by 2030 as credible and “responsible”. It is noteworthy that forces wanting to coddle the planet’s big polluters regularly alter the base year for measuring change. It used to be 1990. Then it was the year 2000 and now Abbott has made 2005 the government’s benchmark.

The PM claims the target is in line with those of comparable countries but Bernie Fraser of the Climate Change Authority strongly disagrees. He insists the figure puts Australia “at or near the bottom” of the table of developed nations. Fraser also dismisses Murdoch media reports that the economy would take a $600 billion hit if we pursued a more responsible goal of a 40-60 percent emissions cut based on 2000 levels. Treasury makes no such claim.

There are also plenty of critics for the draft “safeguard mechanism” announced by environment minister Greg Hunt recently. It turns out that 80 percent of the country’s biggest polluters won’t be affected. They will be able to increase their emissions. Experts predict only 20 to 30 companies will have emissions checked against their highest figures recorded between 2009-10 and 2013-14. Breaches in one year can be made up in the next. They will also be able to buy pollution “credits” from overseas. Hunt is bending over backwards to please the corporate sector. “It has always been our commitment and we continue to budget zero revenue. It is our clear expectation that no businesses will pay penalties,” he said.

Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute said the new rules will do nothing to reduce emissions. “It’s called a safeguard mechanism but it’s not an environmental safeguard. Greg Hunt is not actually constraining emissions. If it’s going to work it’s got to have teeth but all we’ve got are gums,” he said.

It is clear that the Abbott government wants to protect fossil fuel-dependent industries from any threat to their bottom line. It has gone to ridiculous lengths to champion the cause of coal - one which increasingly appears lost. The price for coal on international markets has slumped. The governments of India and China have announced plans to dramatically cut or cease the import of thermal coal. Glencore has announced the shut down of mines in Australia. Wollongong Coal is closing its Russell Vale colliery. Coal-fired and nuclear power generation are on the nose internationally.

The Abbott government has sought to plug the sources of bad news for its favoured industries. Cuts at the CSIRO have caused the science agency to cancel its annual survey of Australians’ attitudes to climate change. Results for 2014 won’t be released. In its first budget, the Abbott government took $111 million out of the CSIRO’s funding.

People want a renewable energy future. Despite the media’s incessant campaign against the science of climate change and the adoption of renewable energy, roughly 70 percent of Australians accept the scientific consensus. That is up 6 points on the figure for 2012. Their enthusiastic embrace of solar and wind power has been met with hostility by the Abbott government in the form of a cut to the renewable energy target. This is only one more example of the disconnect between the will of the people and the actions of pro-corporate government but one with terrible consequences for the survivability of the planet. The people will need to make a careful assessment of alternative emissions strategies but their judgement on the Abbott government’s climate change vandalism is in.

Next article – Navy trying to kill Gangjeong Village

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