The polite ETS that offends all and achieves nothing
The debate over climate change is an odd one in that you have to back an argument of zealots on one side or the other to make a policy decision – middle ground is not really an option.
You have to either accept that the there is such a thing as global warming caused by carbon emissions and is a threat to the planet and our lives or you don’t. Given that most of us don’t actually know anything about climate and weather we have to believe one or other group of people who claim they do.
The thing about the Emissions Trading Scheme as it stands is that neither side agrees that Kevin Rudd has it right, which, unlike most debates in this country, is an indicator you have it all pretty wrong.
Take Wilson Tuckey and Bob Brown for instance.
If you don’t believe climate change is happening then, like Wilson Tuckey and other Coalition MPs who agree with him, then it is consistent position not to support an Emissions Trading Scheme or any other policy that forces a reduction in carbon emissions.
If, like Senator Bob Brown, you do believe that climate change is a man-made reality and it is indeed a genuine threat to the planet and the human race you attempt make real changes that will combat it.
The Greens have a policy of a minimum 40% reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2020 with zero net emissions by 2050., with Brown recently launching a new campaign saying as much.
This policy is a legitimate one from a party that believes that climate change is a reality and that the best way to combat it is make real reductions in our emissions.
In contrast to these two positions on an ETS we have the Rudd Government’s ETS emmissions policy: a commitment to a 5% reduction in green house gases at year 2000 levels by 2020.
Basically this commitment is a couple of cow farts away from doing nothing at all, and while the ETS is still set to cost us in the pocket, it doesn’t match the rhetoric of climate change being “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time” as Kevin Rudd has characterised it.
It is a middle-of-the-road decision in a domain we are being told by the Prime Minister himself that there should be no middle road available.
The Climate Change Institute have defended Kevin Rudd’s proposal, saying although the 5% target is nowhere near enough, an international agreement will pave the way for greater reductions, at least as big as or higher than the 25% non-compulsory target.
That is a pretty hopeful assumption.
The Government’s “if there is a good agreement at Copenhagen” line is dodgy for two reasons: firstly the “secondary target” was only lifted from 15% to 25% as part of a broken promise to delay the introduction of the scheme from this year to next.
It is also a hand washing exercise that leaves it up to there being an international deal struck and is reliant on a set of conditions that may never be approved by the Australian Parliament.
The self-evident sillyness of Kevin Rudd crowing about 60% 2050 target when he may no longer be on the planet himself, letalone Prime Minister, is not really worth evaluating.
Unlike other policy arguments where half-way and watered down compromises reflect not only political reality but a sometimes well struck ideological balance, to invoke the language of “moral challenges” shouldn’t leave much room for political expediency.
If you believe that something is a moral challenge it’s because you have come to a conclusion about its inherent worthiness and you act on it because you have no choice but to do otherwise.
In reality though almost the Rudd Government’s ETS bill has been driven by politics and not a desire to overcome what it accepts is a serious threat to the planet.
The Prime Minister’s behavior in this area has been well noted by senior political and economic commentators, such as Ross Gittins who has implored Rudd to lose his “political virginity” by actually making a decisive and possibly divisive decision on the ETS.
The Coalition has hardly been a leading light on the issue. Malcolm Turnbull recently released a half-baked alternative that Malcolm Turnbull wants as policy but can’t sell to the party room.
But there is at least a purity of argument within the Coalition on the existence of man-made global warming and an ETS: those who don’t believe in climate change don’t want an ETS, those who believe do.
Ultimately though it’s Rudd and Penny Wong who are in control now and the one who gained a great deal of political mileage from climate change in the election campaign, so merely drawing attention to the shambolic behaviour of the Opposition will only get them so far.
An ETS aimed at serious targets like 40% would cost us a bomb and force a lot of people to lose their jobs, so you’d best hope this climate change thing doesn’t turn out to be a complex version of the Y2K bug.
If climate change is real then it could cause a lot of people to lose their homes and lives in the coming decades - not to mention the damage to the environment.
The ETS before us puts a bet on each way in race where that choice simply isn’t allowed.
I’m pretty sure that Kevin Rudd believes in climate change, it’s just that he obviously believes in Kevin Rudd being Prime Minister more.
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