The 2015 Intergeneration Report released by the federal government today (Thursday) has been accused of minimising the threat that climate change poses to Australia’s future prosperity.
While the previous intergenerational report in 2010 referred to climate change as the “largest and most significant challenge to Australia’s environment” and noted the widespread economic consequences of not addressing it, the latest report gives little indication of how Australia’s economy could be impacted over the next 40 years.
Instead, it places focus on the government’s controversial Direct Action policy and its centrepiece Emissions Reduction Fund, saying the government “will” meet its target of a five per cent cut by 2020, a target that has been called both too weak and unachievable with the funds currently allocated.
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The report didn’t specify the costs associated with meeting the deeper post-2020 carbon emission cuts to which Australia is expected to commit, instead saying that “policies that create strong economic growth and a sustainable budget will mean that government is better placed to invest in environmental protection”.
Of climate change the report even stated that “some economic effects may be beneficial – where regions become warmer or wetter this may allow for increased agricultural output – while others may be harmful”.
The report also featured a breakout box on international climate policy examples with “features in common” with the ERF, pointing to the UK’s light-years-ahead policy of requiring all new homes built from 2016 to have zero emissions for heating, hot water, cooling and lighting (if only the ERF could deliver that).
Prime Minister Tony Abbott was attacked by Labor and The Greens in parliament following the report’s release.
“Why… does the report include absolutely no information on climate change over the next 40 years?” shadow environment minister Mark Butler asked.
The Greens called the report “pure politics and utter rubbish”, and called for it to be rewritten by the Parliamentary Budget Office.
“This is an election pamphlet, not a serious economic document,” Greens leader Christine Milne said. “It is an insult to the intelligence of the parliament, the media and the public.
“Typical of the Coalition government’s born-to-rule ‘we know better’ attitude, Joe Hockey is treating Australians as children, trying to disguise politics and ideology as serious economics.
“The report tells us nothing. There is no actual information here. Journalists will emerge from a two-hour lock up with nothing to report on except focus group messaging and talking points.
“Pure spin, pure politics, utter rubbish.”
Ms Milne said in 50 years time the report would be looked at in the same way we view the tobacco industry’s claims about smoking in the 1950s.
“Big polluters are making a lot of money out of global warming and the destruction that will come with it,” she said. “This report says nothing about it.
“You can’t have true intergenerational reporting without examining global warming and pollution from fossil fuels.
“You also can’t just quarantine global warming to an environment section. Global warming will impact on everything from agriculture to public health and migration and population.”
- Read the 2015 Intergenerational Report