Counterpunch: the world has left the Coalition behind
A notable absence of truth in the climate change debate has come from the Opposition’s Greg Hunt all year, and his latest misrepresentations are true to form.
No personal offence to Greg, but it does pay to do your homework occasionally. I have represented Australia at many of this year’s international climate change negotiations, so attending Doha on behalf of the Climate Change Minister is fairly logical and not so remarkable.
We understand your motives. You don’t have much to hang your hat on. First, let’s deal with the Opposition’s pretence – or is it ignorance? - that there is no international action.
As we sit here in Doha, Australia is working with governments from 197 countries to create a new international agreement by 2015 that will legally bind all nations – developed and developing – in the monumental task of cutting carbon pollution to slow down climate change.
Yes, Greg, you might have missed it, but that does include the US, China, the EU and India. They’re all here today. It’s not a hallucination.
While the world puts together the nuts and bolts of this agreement, the vast array of action to price carbon across individual countries is escalating year on year.
Rather than just make it up like the Opposition, let’s rely on a sprinkling of facts and figures:
From next year, more than 50 national or sub-national regions, including all of Europe and beyond, will have emissions trading schemes or a carbon price, covering a combined population of around 1.1 billion people.
China is now the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy, complementing emissions trading starting up in seven cities and provinces. These “micro schemes”, as Greg Hunt calls them, cover 250 million people and represent the world’s second largest emissions trading scheme, which China intends to expand nationally scheme after 2015.
The Opposition also clings obsessively to the misguided idea that the United States is not acting and will not act. This would be news to President Obama.
I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behaviour and carbon emissions. Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere. But we haven’t done as much as we need to. So you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward.
– President Barack Obama, 14 November, 2012.
A hostile Congress refusing to pass climate laws has resulted in the Obama Administration pursuing less economically efficient measures to cut pollution. It is not by preference as Greg Hunt wrongly asserts.
For the record, note the emissions trading schemes in 10 US states: California (economy-wide), and in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, covering the power sector, alongside national EPA standards regulating pollution from the largest industrial emitters.
Greg Hunt’s catalogue of falsehoods goes on and on and we could spend all day dissecting them. Suffice to say he wants us to see the hole and never the doughnut.
He urges us to stop wasting our efforts with carefully designed, economically responsible, internationally-linked, pollution cutting schemes and non-existent international climate negotiations.
He has the answer: rainforests. A simple plan to protect the great rainforests of the world - “the single biggest, fastest thing the world can do to reduce emissions right now” he says.
And sure enough, it’s as simple as the other measures in the Opposition’s Direct Action plan to cure climate change. It’s right up there with Mr Abbott’s plan to carpet all of Australia’s productive farmland with trees or the miracle of soil carbon which will enable Australia to magically bury most of its carbon pollution, even though the CSIRO says this technique, if we can get it to work, would reduce less than 1% of our emissions.
When all of these illusions have melted away, and the fear campaign drained of its last drop of political potency, we will finally come face to face with the one, single certainty that Australian voters already sense.
For all the denials, for all the hyperbole, for all the muddying of the waters, if their moment arrives, Mr Hunt and the Opposition will be keeping Labor’s price on carbon.
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