The inconvenient drought playing to a captive audience across the country might just be Howard’s Katrina, and now the Coalition needs a shiny present to get away with arriving so late to the climate change party.

Will one of the world’s largest solar farms do it? A shiny start, but the federal government is simply making good on prior funding commitments with this project. The plant will apparently produce enough power for 45,000 homes, but measured against the scale of the greenhouse problem, that’s a rowboat sent out against a battleship (there are plans to make the rowboat nuclear powered).

How does this fit into the long-term plan? Or better yet, what is the long-term plan? Having effectively folded up the deck chairs on the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) and steadfastly refusing to consider either emissions targets or carbon pricing signals, it’s hard to imagine the government has one. There’s AP6, but if it is to be as effective as touted, emissions commitments should be no problem.

As Kim Beazley points out, it’s hard to make a coherent strategy without a target to aim at. The opposition at least has a post-Kyoto goal, advocating the oft-trumpeted 60% emission reduction by 2050 (though no mention as to whether this is relative to 1990 levels). It also supports an emissions trading scheme.

A few months back on the Sunday program, Industry Minister Macfarlane nixed that idea, saying that the necessary technologies must be developed prior to the establishment of market-based incentives. Laurie Oakes responded by reeling off just some of the industry and government figures (including the Treasurer) who disagreed with that assessment.

Innovation doesn’t occur in an economic vacuum. Macfarlane may not be entirely wrong, though. Innovation will still happen. It’ll just happen elsewhere. Just ask Roaring 40s. But pricing carbon is about more than encouraging innovation – it’s about internalising the costs of an activity that could only ever be justifiably externalised by ignorance. Macfarlane is one of the few still clinging to that excuse.

With climate change even being blamed for rising interest rates, perhaps Beazley’s election slogan next year could be, “Who do you trust to keep greenhouse gas emissions low?”