The Turnbull Government may have hoped releasing Australia’s latest greenhouse gas emissions together with the 2017 Climate Reportwould pass unnoticed, given the sneaky way it announced them just days before Christmas.
If one disregards the spin in that report, it is clear that Australia has failed on climate policy. Australia’s emissions are rising and are expected to continue rising out to 2030. That rise is coming mostly from transport, and some rubbery numbers around land-use emissions may hide an even worse result.
Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg has tried to put some gloss on this report, even claiming that Australia will meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The United Nations Environment Program Emissions Gap Report, released before the Bonn climate conference, states that Australia’s emissions are set to exceed the target under existing policies by about one third.
Yet what the Government’s Climate report reveals is business as usual is about to get worse.
The Emissions Reduction Fund with which taxpayers pay for businesses to reduce emissions is to get more funding and the safeguard mechanism is to be made “simpler and fairer”-- a code for allowing already lax limits on emissions from big polluters to be even higher. Trading in international carbon credits may be allowed, an easy out, avoiding real reform in energy generation and transport. And the government will develop a long term, “non-prescriptive” emissions reduction strategy by 2020.
After a decade of the climate wars and 30 years of warnings from scientists about rising global temperature and its terrible implications for life on Earth, this is woefully unacceptable.
Recently, Prime Minister Turnbull, in answer to a question on Adani and coal-fired power stations on the ABC’s QandA, described South Australia’s large amounts of renewable energy as “crazy”, and “ideological”, and said that fossil fuels will be around for a “long time to come”.
The use of the word “ideology” is meant to convey the idea that the proponents of renewable energy are motivated by a blind faith, without any basis in rational thought. Another term he is fond of is “technology neutral” in relation to energy supply, as if to suggest that all types of energy generation are somehow equal, and so ignoring that the consequences of each are very different.
What is the science telling us?
That the globe is warming, that polar ice is diminishing, and that seasonal climate variations are becoming more extreme, are all verifiable facts. The only satisfactory explanation for these effects is a rise in greenhouse gases.
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