17 July 2014 – 11.14 am:
Senator Eric Abetz
Senator Chris Back
Senator Cory Bernardi
Senator Simon Birmingham
Senator George Brandis
Senator David Bushby
Senator Michaelia Cash
Senator Richard Colbeck
Senator Mathias Corman
Senator Sean Edwards
Senator David Fawcett
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells
Senator Mitch Fifield
Senator Bill Heffernan
Senator David Johnston
Senator Ian MacDonald
Senator Brett Mason
Senator James McGrath
Senator Marise Payne
Senator Linda Reynolds
Senator Michael Ronaldson
Senator Anne Ruston
Senator Scott Ryan
Senator Zed Seselja
Senator Arthur Sinodinos
Senator Dean Smith
Senator Matthew Canavan
Senator Bridget McKenzie
Senator Fiona Nash
Senator Barry O’Sullivan
Senator John Williams
Senator Nigel Scullion
Senator Jacqui Lambie
Senator Glenn Lazarus
Senator Dio Wang
Senator Bob Day
Senator David Leyonhjelm
Senator Ricky Muir
Senator John Madigan
These are the men and women who today made Australia the pariah of the planet by taking the first backward step on climate action by repealing the carbon tax in the Senate today at 11.14 am.
As a mega El Niño gathers a fury of dry wind and heat to come our way, as climate warming intensifies and the polar glaciers melt, we toss out an effective method to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Worse is that it was done on a supposed mandate from the people. The mandate from the people was to end the Labor government that the Opposition had succeeded in unnerving with an unceasing torrent of abuse and ridicule. A government that had a perfect score on passing legislation but that was deeply flawed in its messaging to the people on the most important issue in history. Instead of a firm and unflinching stance on the action it needed to take on climate, it allowed itself to be bullied, flummoxed and unnerved not just by the rantings of the opposition but by its own internal failure of courage and unity.
This isn’t the end. The trends are set and clear.
Clean energy is cheaper, at least for households. Renewable baseload energy is now possible. Mark Diesendorf says clean energy baseload can be had with a small matter of a gas turbine – otherwise known as a jet engine – run not to fly to London, but an hour or two a few times a year, to plug the gaps in supply.
Green bonds are on the way, soon. Divestment from dirty investments is waiting to explode once the access is provided and the news spreads. A new ethical super fund is to be launched next month.
People increasingly want climate action and a clean and green place to live.
This battle is bigger than the market for coal.
And the market for renewables is the big unquenchable genie now out of the bottle.
Watch what happens as that genie gets hitched with the greenback.
The Australian Conservation Foundation, which provided the list of senators above, said: “By becoming the first country to remove a working price on pollution, these senators have knowingly taken Australia towards a more dangerous climate and down the path to international irrelevance on climate action.
“As the world steps up its efforts, Australia finds itself with no working policy to cut pollution,” Kelly O’Shanassy, ACF chief executive said.
“Since the carbon price was introduced on 1 July 2012, pollution from electricity has dropped by 10 per cent. Renewable energy has increased by 37 per cent in the last year alone and the economy continues to grow at an above average rate.
“Now we have no comprehensive scheme to stop big polluters from going back to the bad old days of free-for-all polluting and treating the air we breathe like an open sewer.
“This backwards step makes Australia an international embarrassment.
“The Abbott Government and crossbench Senators who voted today to repeal the carbon price have left Australia without the necessary tools to meet our paltry international obligation to cut pollution by five per cent by 2020, let alone to reduce it to the levels scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous climate change.
“The government has listened to the rent-seeking of big polluters rather than the advice of scientists, economists, doctors and firefighters.
“The government can vote to get rid of the carbon price, but it can’t vote away global warming. That takes real action, something we haven’t yet seen from the Abbott government.
“This government and these senators know what they are doing. They will have to explain this action to their children and grandchildren. Their votes are on the public record. They can deny the importance of pricing pollution, but they’ll never be able to deny what they’ve done today.
“Australians are already living with climate change – record heatwaves, worse droughts, more extreme weather. It is reckless to get rid of a policy that is working and wilfully expose Australians to worse in future.
“The voices of Australians who want a safe and healthy future for their families will continue to grow and we’ll make sure they are heard in Canberra,” Ms O’Shanassy said.
The Climate Institute
“Today’s repeal of laws that price and limit carbon pollution is an historic act of irresponsibility and recklessness,” John Connor, chief executive of The Climate Institute said.
“With the Senate’s vote today, Australia not only lurches to the back of the pack of countries taking action on climate, but sees the responsibility of emission reductions shift from major polluters to the taxpayer.
“Today we lose a credible framework of limiting pollution that was a firm foundation for a fair dinkum Australian contribution to global climate efforts.
“What we are left with as potential replacement policy rests on three wobbly legs – a Government fund subject to an annual budgetary arm wrestle, uncertain non-binding limits on some company emissions, and a renewable energy target under assault.
“No modelling to date, independent or from the Government, has shown that the proposed replacement policy can reduce Australia’s pollution or achieve the minimum bipartisan emissions reduction target of five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, let alone the more ambitious up to 25 per cent cut that Australia is still committed to internationally. The Government’s own modelling shows that without a credible price and limit on pollution, our emissions will increase by 30 per cent over the next 15 years.
“The result of repeal today is that Australia is bereft of credible climate policy just as the international community focuses on deeper reduction targets for 2025 and 2030, and even the heads of organisations like the International Monetary Fund, OECD and World Bank talk of the need to completely decarbonise the global economy by the second half of this century.
“The last seven years have been a sorry and sordid tale of greed, incompetence and rotten luck, which has reduced Australian policy making to scaremongering, self-interest and reckless short termism.
“If there is any solace to be taken, it’s that we now have two years of experience of carbon laws that have worked reducing pollution in a growing economy, with minimal price impacts, as predicted.
“We also appear not to have lost all the house furniture, with important elements such as the renewable energy target, the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA looking like they may survive. And the focus on emissions trading is set to continue in Australian political debate.
“A further solace is that Australian public attitudes and hunger for action is rebounding. The most reckless act today may yet turn out to be the Government’s disconnect from this rebound in public sentiment.
“Climate politics has been a roller-coaster for nearly a decade and all parties share some responsibility for today’s decision. But that roller-coaster ride doesn’t end today – it just gets more intense.”
Professor Roger Jones, Professorial Research Fellow in the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies (VISES) at Victoria University
Professor Roger Jones of Victoria University said the repeal of the carbon tax was “the perfect storm of stupidity”.
“It’s hard to imagine a more effective combination of poor reasoning and bad policy making.
“A complete disregard of the science of climate change and its impacts.
“Bad economics and mistrust of market forces.
“Poor risk management to take what is effective and working, what can be readily adapted to more stringent targets, and replace it with a more expensive and unwieldy scheme that lacks the resources to meet its totally inadequate target of 5 per cent reductions by 2020.
“A total failure of governance by government.”
The Labor Party
“The Abbott Government is determined to hurt Australians now with its unfair Budget and is determined to hurt future generations by refusing to tackle climate change, Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, and Environment Minister Mark Butler said.
“History will judge Tony Abbott harshly for refusing to believe that action is needed on climate change.
“Tony Abbott will do anything to try and ignore the science of climate change. It’s clear that he still thinks it is – in his own words – ‘absolute crap’.
“Australia could have gone to the Paris Conference next year with an integrated, effective Emissions Trading Scheme, but Tony Abbott has embarrassed Australians and instead we attend that Conference as the only country to reverse its climate action.
“Tony Abbott is taking Australia backwards while the rest of the world is moving forward.
“All of Australia’s major trading partners are taking serious action on climate change, including in our own region.”
The Aboriginal Carbon Fund
General manager of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund, Rowan Foley, said carbon farming was a multi-million dollar agribusiness that generated jobs for Aboriginal people and stimulates economic development of Aboriginal lands.
“Aboriginal carbon projects will likely have to compete with other industrial projects to sell credits in an ERF or seek deals in the voluntary market. Either way the costs of production must be met just like any other agribusiness,” Mr Foley said.
“ The development of a vibrant, strong voluntary carbon market will provide greater certainty for agribusinesses in the land sector through a farmers co-op model.
“The reality is that long term stable policy is required to incubate land sector projects to deliver carbon abatement for Australia, and we are not seeing that at the moment.”
The carbon price had been repealed, he said, but the legislation to implement the Emissions Reduction Fund was not likely to be considered until late August, which would create more policy uncertainty and further undermine investor confidence.
“Without the carbon price it will be much harder to make the case to start projects. This will hurt all carbon agribusinesses in the land sector.”
However Mr Foley said, “We acknowledge endeavors by Minister Greg Hunt to support Aboriginal carbon farmers and we will work with the government to continue delivering benefits for Aboriginal people from carbon projects regardless of legislative and policy changes.”
– Tina Perinotto
Images: from Black Saturday in Victoria 2009