Are Labor just coalition lite on climate?

Jun 14, 2022
Effects of climate change and global warming
Labor should heed the message that the climate emergency must be taken seriously. Image: Flicker / Marco Verch professional

Australian voters were ecstatic to be rid of the Coalition, but have we jumped out of the frying pan into the fire on climate?

The rise of the Teals ejecting Liberals from so-called safe seats and the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate, was driven by climate.  An ABC Compass poll of over 97,000 respondents showed “Climate Change” to be the No. 1 issue, polling twice as high as “Cost of Living and Affordability” and “Economy and Finance”.

Voters know from the unprecedented drought and bushfire season of 2019/2020 and the 2021/2022 floods, that climate change is real and now. It follows that Labor should heed the message that the climate emergency must be taken seriously.

Before the Election

Going into the 2022 Federal election the signs were not good:

  • Labor received $473,854 of declared sponsorship from fossil fuel interests, which represented only a fraction of the total according to Market Forces.
  • Labor had a 20-strong Otis Group faction of “coal-loving” MPs.
  • Labor had ruled out imposing a carbon price.
  • Labor raised no opposition to Susan Ley appealing to the High Court against having a “Duty of Care” for our youth.  Arguably this is the highest duty for any government and should be enshrined in a bill of rights.
  • Labor colluded with the Coalition at federal and state level to approve more new coal and gas capacity than at any time in Australia’s history.

To defeat the Coalition we gave Labor the benefit of the doubt. Were we right to do so? 

Early Days

Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong were sworn into office on 23 May 2022 and immediately started making promises.

  • Anthony Albanese flew to Tokyo hours after being sworn into office to meet with the leaders of the United States, Japan and India.  He repeatedly stressed the importance of action against climate change in his opening address, saying: “The region is looking to us to work with them and to lead by example”;  “That’s why my government will take ambitious action on climate” and “We will act in recognition that climate change is the main economic and security challenge for the island countries of the Pacific”.
  • At the Pacific Islands Forum Penny Wong said “I know the imperative we all share to take serious action to reduce emissions and transform our economies,” and “Nothing is more central to the security and economies of the Pacific.”
  • Mr Albanese has said that “We have an opportunity now to end the climate wars in Australia”, that “Australian businesses know that good action on climate change is good for jobs and good for our economy, and I want to join the global effort.”

 

Labor have been big on promises and focussed on domestic emissions (1.2% of global emissions) but refuse to commit on reducing our exported fossil fuels (additional 3.6% of global emissions).

The Science and the Targets

No political party and only a small proportion of our population understand how perilous mankind’s future is. There is little time for radical change globally to our energy, transport, agriculture, reforestation and ecology to draw-down carbon and to research geonengineering – essential for a survivable future. 

Even conservative scientists are highly alarmed about the prospect of the 15 compounding climate feedback loops, summarised as the Hothouse Earth research.  This predicts that once triggered around 2030 or at 2 DegC of warming, these feedback loops will cause rapid and unstoppable warming to 4-6 DegC  – unsurvivable by mankind and 90% of other species. 

Ice-core evidence shows that 9 of the 15 feedback mechanisms are already triggered.  The science says we need to be close to net zero emissions globally by 2030.  Net zero by 2050 is reckless to our entire species survival.   If we fail at climate we fail at everything – survival, civilisation, economy, ecology, health, poverty, equality!

Australia’s fossil fuel emissions amount to just 1.2% of global emissions, but we are almost the largest emitter per capita.  If exports are included, our emissions are ~4.8% , making Australia the 5th largest emitter after China, US, India and Russia.

We are a shameful pariah on the global stage, The UN Sustainable Development Report 2021, scored Australia last out of 193 United Nations member countries on climate action.

Labor seems unaware that climate change has no boundaries. The exports have to stop and the argument that other nations will supply has to be silenced. 

Labor in Action

Two weeks into a Labor government:

The good news:

  • Emissions target of 43% emissions reductions by 2030.
  • $20Bn for network upgrades to gear $58bn of private renewables investment promised.
  • Electric car discounts or removal of taxes promised – this is highly strategic.
  • Promises for 400 community batteries
  • Emissions limits to be placed on the 215 largest polluting facilities.
  • Renewable energy target of 82% renewable energy by 2030.

The bad news:

  • 2050 net zero target is hopelessly inadequate.
  • No commitment to phase out fossil fuel exports.
  • Appointment of Madeleine King as resources Minister with no hint at transitioning coal mining and gas fracking communities to renewable.
  • Ruling out a carbon price and using the safeguard mechanism which has failed to reduce emissions, and currently permits dubious offsets.
  • Supporting hydrogen for heavy vehicles when electrified road and rail transport is 3 times more efficient and economic. 
  • No commitment to eliminate the grotesque subsidies ($11.6Bn 2021/22) for fossil fuel industries that only employ 133,000 people and pay no tax in Australia.
  • Labor MPs saying coal mines in Australia will be exempt from having to buy carbon credits or reduce emissions under the party’s climate change policy.
  • Federal Labor will continue to construct the new gas fired power station in Kurri Kurri provided the plant is switched to run on green hydrogen – a $600 million project that provides just 10 long-term jobs and will only run for 2 days per year.  

Conclusion

The new Labor government is already showing itself to be Coalition Lite on the climate emergency – promising much but acting minimally. 

The fight goes on for a survivable future, but the new target is Labor!

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