On high stakes, shifting winds, and new friends in unexpected conservative places

Did we mention these were volatile times?

Let’s look at the cool reality: Kevin Rudd has manipulated polls in his favour since he was deposed as prime minister three years ago, to the point that he’s forced his parliamentary colleagues to reinstall him.

The logic of the Labor Party on Wednesday night was to hitch a ride on this poll popularity and avoid an unmitigated trouncing under now former PM, Julia Gillard.

This man was even more determined to be PM than Julia Gillard was to retain her role. And that’s some fierce determination.

Someone in the Labor Party worked out that’s a good thing.

And suddenly the game has changed. As it needed to.

There are too many critical issues at stake.

If Rudd can continue to manipulate the polls then maybe suddenly it’s not game over for the carbon tax, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and a decent Renewable Energy Target. Nor the opportunity for this country to show leadership to the world. Yes, including leaving coal in the ground where it belongs (but then the markets are sorting that one out).

Coalition Leader Tony Abbott, who has either promised or flagged the end to all these things, may need to stop and work out the direction of the prevailing breeze. Otherwise he may face the winds of change from his own internal man-on-the wings Malcolm Turnbull.

That would be sweet news to many people on the green, sustainable and ethical side. Turnbull is absolutely a climate rationalist, who accepts science and maths and who seems widely liked for many of his other inclinations as well.

Suddenly people such as Jon Jutsen, who runs energy consultancy Energetics and is one of the longest established and most respected energy efficiency players on the block, may not feel so despondent that come 14 September so much good work in his industry will come to a dead stop.

Jutsen told The Fifth Estate two weeks ago that his company had pitched on 50 contracts for energy efficiency thanks to the assistance coming from the Clean Technology Investment Program. Importantly, these were in areas of business, such as manufacturing, which has been shy about moving into energy efficiency space, because of its potential to interfere with technical processes.

“Overall the program has been an enormous success,” Jutsen said of the program. “There’s been a huge level of interest and a big impact on the way manufacturers use energy.

“But it looks like we’ll see the end of this.”

Yes there was some momentum driven by cost savings but it was in the context of “an extremely difficult business environment”. Jutsen doubted the momentum would continue without some funding support.

What is it about a supposedly pro-business, pro-economic rationalist political party that promises to destroy business opportunities in areas that save money for the business, create jobs and a future for our kids?

The Productivity Commission gets it – it called for serious climate resilience planning because it can see that climate is a threat to business.

Abbott needs to read the prevailing winds. Get into the right rabbit hole.

President Obama in the US this week announced some ambitious plans on climate, sustainability and resilience. The US is hurting like mad in some places from wild weather. Yes, Obama will have some trouble from Congress on some issues but the really exciting news is that conservatives are shifting, too.

We can’t sing it loudly enough: the sustainability movement and climate change now has conservative friends and you can’t get more influential than that (since they seem to have most of the power).

Read the story we’ve posted on the Heartland Institute, the think tank that seeded and funded the anti-climate backlash worldwide, and its breakaway, the R Street Institute. Together these two powerful groups agreed in a recent debate that a carbon tax was a good idea.

See US conservatives argue for carbon tax…from the heartlands

The message is rising everywhere.

The Climate Institute’s John Connor on Thursday pointed to a range of indicators. There was China’s first seven of possibly nine pilot emissions trading schemes, President Obama, with his “emphatic package of regulatory and policy initiatives” on climate and the Australian Coal Association’s “extraordinary analysis” on the institute’s Unburnable Carbon report, which Connor said “reinforced our view that high carbon investments continue to pump up what I have described as a speculative bubble of climate denial, delay or indifference”.

Connor wanted to acknowledge the “astounding contribution that the retiring independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott have made to Australian carbon and clean energy policy”, and the efforts of Julia Gillard and Climate Minister Greg Combet.

“Our market research shows declining opposition to these laws,” he said.

Connor also mentioned that the institute’s foundation bequest had come to an end and it was now seeking support to continue its own excellent work.

Chief executive of the Australian Institute of Architects David Parken who was in Canberra briefly, before heading to the NSW awards night in Sydney, thought the move to Rudd would result in a few changes, not all bad.  Rudd might want to turn the carbon tax into an emissions trading scheme, for instance, and he thought that Deputy PM Anthony Albanese would continue in his involvement with infrastructure and the cities agenda.

Let’s hope.

This job of saving the planet needs all the friends it can get. Wherever they are.

Don’t miss

Great articles not to miss this week include Cameron’s excellent special report on data centres. Yes, it will appeal to all the techies who have to design and manage these centres but it’s also something that is relevant to anyone who cares about the immense demands for power they make, but who also wants to remain connected and online.

Another “don’t miss” is Donna’s coverage of last week’s Making Cities Liveable Conference in Melbourne, of course. Here’s just one:

And to let your imagination float away to the dreaming spaces, even if the rest of you is stuck in the day to day, read Emma Parry’s lovely piece in the latest installment in her Responsible Tourism series, this time looking at the harsh reality of a post tsunami holiday location.