Mark Butler

The Labor Party has made a bold play for a rational and decisive plan to counter climate change.

In the wake of record global temperatures, the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef that has seemingly happened in just weeks, and warming oceans that have already impacted significantly on the salmon production in Tasmania, Labor has seized on what it’s clearly perceived is a new mood and appetite for change among electors.

Its policy platform on climate, pollution, energy and sustainability is a promise of decisive action on these issues should it win the upcoming federal election expected on 2 July.

Judging by the opinion polls that are punishing the Coalition government and the failure of PM Malcolm Turnbull to deliver on a whole raft of hopes, it’s clear that the ALP thinks it can make a much stronger showing at the ballot box than any of its members would have dared think just six months ago.

Key to its strategy will be an Emissions Trading Scheme, already established in 40 per cent of the world’s economy, it says, and an “orderly” transition to clean energy.

But also among its plans is a significant focus on the built environment and the role it can play in curbing emissions.

Evidence of this is the citing in its document of key tenets of the sustainable property industry’s mantra: better planning, better designed buildings, smart infrastructure and ways to improve energy efficiency and productivity.

On Wednesday industry sectors and advocacy groups as one came out in support of Labor’s Climate Change Action Plan.

The environmental and clean energy groups were naturally strongly supportive.

But so was the Property Council, which represents big corporates with heavy stakes in the built environment. It endorsed the opposition’s stance and in fact offered that the built environment could play an even stronger role especially on energy efficiency.

Chief executive Ken Morrison, fresh from delivering a well received address on that same topic topic at the NABERS and CBD conference in Sydney on Wednesday, said Australia’s property industry was a world leader in emissions reduction and had no fear about playing its part in future emission reductions.

“The built environment contributes 23 per cent of Australia’s emissions, so we are a vital partner is helping Australia achieve its carbon targets,” he said.

“This industry offers many of the least cost emissions abatement opportunities available and it is vitally important that property be included in the measures announced today by the Opposition – doubling energy productivity, the Strategic Industries Task Force, and reforms to the energy market to ensure barriers are removed to large scale roll-out of onsite renewable energy and distributed energy.”

He even took a swipe at the federal government’s sad excuse for climate action.

“The current Emissions Reduction Fund provides little incentive or opportunity for property to participate, despite the large gains we could bring to the table.”

The ETS was also a good idea and probably better than a carbon tax, he said.

The Business Council of Australia endorsed the plan as an opportunity for a bipartisan approach.

Australia must begin the careful transformation of our economy if we are to achieve our lower emission future, BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said. “Energy and climate change policies should be national and bi-partisan, wherever possible.”

The Labor Party’s Climate Change Action Plan rests on six key measures to provide an “orderly transition” to a low pollution economy:

  1. Renewable energy with a 50 per cent target 2030. Provide Clean Energy Finance Corporation with more certainty
  2. Transition to cleaner power generation, moving away from “old heavy polluting coal fired power stations”, as an “orderly transition, with concrete support for workers and communities”
  3. Job opportunities from clean energy and clean technology, through a Strategic Industries Taskforce, supported by a Strategic Industries Reserve Fund of $300 million to support the transition of key industries to 2020
  4. An emissions trading scheme, placing a legal cap on pollution from large polluters through a cap and offsets scheme, while supporting industry by ensuring access to international carbon offsets
  5. Capture carbon on the land by reinvigorating the Carbon Farming Initiative to encourage carbon storage on the land and in agriculture, and “taking decisive action to deal with broad scale land clearing”
  6. Increased Energy Efficiency doubling Australia’s national energy productivity by 2030 and implementing new emissions standards for motor vehicles to cut pollution on our roads.

A summary of other measures proposed by Labor follow:

Cities and buldings

  • Support to reduce per capita environmental impacts in our cities, including more efficient building design and public transport systems
  • Broaden Infrastructure Australia’s role to include new assessment criteria of smart infrastructure and sustainability
  • A coordinated and integrated approach to urban policy development can improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of major cities in Australia
  • Support for investment in active transport solutions that connect up with public transport, education and employment hubs
  • Support for renewable energy including in buildings and precincts that produce their own power in new developments
  • Increasing the resilience of our cities does more than simply prepare them for the potentially devastating effects of climate change. It also ensures they play their part in addressing the shift to a carbon-constrained economy
  • Require incorporation of smart infrastructure technology and sustainability measures before projects qualify for Commonwealth funding
  • Broaden Infrastructure Australia’s role, adding new assessment criteria of smart infrastructure and sustainability to increase value for public money and take action to improve liveability of major cities

Vehicles

  • New emissions standards for motor vehicles to reduce emissions in the transport sector
  • Promote growth of low emissions vehicles such as those powered by electricity or hydrogen
  • Reduce barriers to electric vehicle charging in homes

Energy

  • A Community Power Network to deal with the challenges of implementing renewable energy solutions in social and community housing, rental properties and apartment-style living
  • A commitment by a Labor government to enter Power Purchase Agreements, equal to bringing Commonwealth energy use up to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030
  • Investment in capital equipment and low emissions technologies
  • Clean energy procurement policy that maximises local content in clean technologies and the renewables sector
  • Investment in science and research to ensure we are in a position to create and commercialise the next wave of innovation in renewables and clean technology

Emissions Trading Scheme

Details of the emissions trading scheme make it clear “there will be no fixed price or carbon tax”.

“The scheme will allow business to work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate and will not involve taxpayers handing over billions of dollars to Australia’s large polluters as occurs now.”

“When China’s national scheme comes online, one in every three people in the world will live under an ETS. Rejecting an ETS means isolation from the global marketplace,” the document says.

Land clearing

A plan to use a “Climate Trigger in federal legislation to allow the Commonwealth to regulate broad-scale land clearing across the nation. “This will ensure proper and rigorous investigation of broad-scale land clearing impact on Australia’s ability to meet its agreed climate change commitment to keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Labor will ensure that state land clearing laws are consistent with Australia’s international obligations and commitments. This will require the adoption of consistent reporting of land and tree clearing across states and the Commonwealth, in line with best practice in this area.

“There are significant discrepancies between the Australian Government’s tree clearing data and that of Queensland. Queensland’s data generally shows much higher clearing (see graph) and emissions.

“The Australian Government data is based on desktop analysis, while the Queensland Government complements desktop analysis with extensive field validation.

“Labor will bring the rest of the country in line with Queensland’s reporting of land clearing by implementing the state’s ground-tested SLATS system nationwide.”

Costs

The costs of not at least slowing climate change are huge Labor said.

“An increase in drought frequency alone will cost our economy $7.3 billion a year – shrinking growth in our economy by a full percentage point of GDP.

“Just a 1.1 metre rise in the sea level, would cause $226 billion in damage to coastal property and infrastructure – that’s 250,000 homes, 1800 bridges, 120 seaports, Sydney and Brisbane airports.

“We are seeing significant challenges to the Great Barrier Reef hurting tourism, impacting $5.7 billion in tourism dollars from the Reef and 65,000 jobs in regional towns. We are experiencing increased annual rainfall variability and dangerous water shortages. On top of that, there are higher fire risks through changes in temperature, more heatwaves impacting our health, dangerous water shortages and large areas of agricultural land taken out of production.”

2 replies on “Labor punts on appetite for climate action”

  1. Labors plan is talk a lot and implement nothing, without a big price on carbon like $100 per tonne not a baby steps $27 it’s just talk.
    The simplest tax is the best tax a straight out royalty on all coal mined for sale in Australia of $100 per tonne, States to receive all.
    A tax on all Oil/Gas produced or imported $100 per barrel equivalent, elimination of excise, all revenue to States.
    Total revenue $50 billion, total new 26 billions that is taking away existing excises and royalties around 24 billion Dollars.
    Buying “Carbon Credits” is simply fraudulent green washing.

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