Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard

25 June 2010 – Australia’s green voices yesterday crossed fingers and hoped new Prime Minister Julia Gillard would capitalise on the political capital of taking action on climate change. Following are highlights of what they said.

Greens

“The new Prime Minister should realise that it is the popular consensus on climate action that has brought down the last four leaders and what she must do is offer leadership. If she aims high and works with the Greens to get strong climate policies in place, the Australian people will get behind her.”

“Prime Minister Gillard may not have shown much interest in climate action yet, but she has demonstrated herself to be a good negotiator, is open to negotiating with the Greens, and is clearly interested in power.

“The most effective Federal Environment Minister I have worked with was Graham Richardson, who realised that real action protect the environment was good political sense and delivered the Labor Party government in a tight election.

“Her first signal, however, has not been promising – using Minister Wong’s excuse that we need to delay climate action while building popular consensus.

“When climate failure has claimed the last four leaders – Prime Ministers Rudd and Howard and Opposition Leaders Turnbull and Nelson – Prime Minister Gillard would be well advised to come to talk to the Greens about real climate action,” Senator Milne said.

ACF

Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive officer Don Henry said: “I congratulate Ms Gillard and urge her to lead an Australian shift from a pollution dependent economy to a clean economy and a healthy environment.

“Australians are hungry for strong and consistent leadership on climate action.”

Mr Henry pointed to May opinion polls that showed Labor’s primary vote fell eight points from 43 per cent to 35 per cent after the government announced it would shelve the emissions trading scheme.

“Exit polls from the 2007 election showed climate change was among the top two issues for voters in the election that saw John Howard lose the prime ministership,” Mr Henry said.

“We urge Prime Minister Gillard to put a price on pollution and to boost support for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.

“Much more also needs to be done to protect special places like our marine environments, the Murray-Darling Basin, our forests and the superb natural and cultural values of northern Australia.”

He said:“ACF warmly acknowledges Kevin Rudd’s strong leadership role before and during the difficult Copenhagen climate talks last year, the achievement of a 20 per cent renewable energy target and his first act as Prime Minister – ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.”

The Climate Institute

The Climate Institute chief executive officer John Connor said that new Prime Minister Julia Gillard should see bipartisan support for expected final passage of amendments to the renewable energy legislation as “a springboard for action on pollution and climate change not a full stop.”

“Today should serve as a marker to end the race to the bottom that has characterised pollution and climate change policies over recent months,” said Mr Connor.

“The Renewable Energy Target is a crucial step towards reducing our economies damaging dependence on pollution. Fixing this legislation has been important not only to unleash the over $20 billion dollars of investment in making clean energy cheaper but also to help create over 20,000 clean energy industry jobs.”

Mr Connor said greater efforts and incentives were needed to ‘give investors the confidence they need in investing in emerging smart clean technologies like big solar, geothermal and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.

“Australia needs clear limits on pollution and a system that rewards businesses taking responsibility for their pollution and charges those that don’t.

“Delaying emissions trading until 2014 or beyond risks locking in Australia’s dependence on polluting industries.

“All parties should be congratulated today but we look forward to more detailed plans on pollution and climate change that halt Australia’s rising pollution in the next three years, make business take responsibility for their pollution and makes clean energy cheaper.”

Mr Connor said: “Prime Minister Rudd’s contributions and energy in raising the profile and importance of action on pollution and climate change from the 2007 election campaign deserves acknowledgement. His personal commitment and engagement in the lead up to and during the Copenhagen climate summit are testament to this commitment.

“Kevin Rudd is deeply concerned about this issue which made the decision to delay the CPRS to 2014 all the more surprising, we wish him well in future endeavours and hope he remains a key figure in raising the standard of the national climate change debate.”

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au