A recent Climate Institute survey reports that two thirds of voters surveyed in marginal seats say climate change will affect their vote. Here’s a comprehensive and up to date rundown of the two major parties on the issue. And of course, there’s a third party that have been jumping up and down about this subject for much longer than the two major parties — we’ve included The Greens below too. 

Coalition:

The Prime Minister announced a Climate Change Fund during the Leaders Debate. In summary, the Fund will be established:

  • to support clean energy technology, focussed on zero emissions renewable and low emissions energy sources, and carbon capture and storage;
  • to support households most affected by the impact of a price on carbon, in particular low income families and pensioners, through reforms that boost economic prospects.

Minister for Environment Malcolm Turnbull outlined the Government’s initial climate change policy in July. It pledges:

– $12.5 million over five years for research into future nuclear power technologies

– $26.1 million to establish a national emissions reporting scheme as part of a plan to design an emissions trading scheme, giving consideration to abatement schemes and pre-existing greenhouse programs.

– $252.2 million over five years for up to 225,000 solar hot water rebates of $1,000 for households which install eligible solar and heat pump water heaters in their homes.

$336 million program where all Australian primary and secondary schools will receive funding of up to $50,000 to help install rainwater tanks and solar hot water systems.

– $15 million investment in the Blacktown Solar Cities project, designed to gather information to help develop future climate change policies.

– Investment in industry energy efficiency.

Before the election, the Government launched a climate change information website (which now points to scientific links between global warming and human behaviour), and a booklet outlining more climate policies the Coalition will be taking to the election. They include:

– $410 million in federal funding (and $2.6 billion from other sources) for research and development of key low emissions technologies. These are set to include nuclear, wind, solar and ‘clean coal’ power.

– Online tools to help households and businesses calculate their emissions and then reduce them – including offsetting options through Government-run environment programs.

– $126 million for a new Australian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation to assist affected sectors and regions, as well as businesses and local governments, to understand and respond to climate change.

– Pursuing international responses to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions. This includes supporting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, “this does not necessarily mean implementing common policies and measures; nor should it preclude a range of approaches to constraining greenhouse gas emissions.”

– Building on APEC’s “historic” Sydney Declaration.

– Boasting that the nation is on track to achieve the Government’s initial goal of 108% of 1990 emission levels by 2008-2012.

Howard has since committed to national climate change targets, aiming to source about 15 per cent of electricity from low-emission sources such as solar, wind and clean coal by 2020. The targets, which bring the Federal Government roughly into line with current state-based reduction schemes, are expected to cost $7.5 billion to reach.

On the 28 October, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile openly stated he was a climate change sceptic.
“The core of your question is about climate change per se,” Mr Vaile said. “There is conflicting scientific evidence on it, on that whole concept, and we need to continue to analyse that.”

Government MPs Danna Vale, Jackie Kelly, Dave Tollner and Dr Dennis Jensen also argue that there is not adequate proof that human activities are contributing to the climate change problem in a dangerous way.

Kyoto

The official Government stance on Kyoto is that, on being re-elected, they would sign an updated version of Kyoto, which expires in 2012, if an effective international agreement is reached. The Government has already signed the first version of Kyoto but they joined the US in refusing to ratify it, saying it placed burdens on Australia not faced by its developing-world competitors.

On April 1, Turnbull labelled Kyoto “a failed mechanism”. Mr Turnbull said ratifying the Kyoto protocol has become a symbolic issue for Labor, even though it is not a practical solution to climate change. “It’s not just failed because most of the world’s biggest emitters are not part of it, it’s not just failed because it would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions growth by one percent. It’s also failed because it doesn’t address the second biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions which is global deforestation.”

However, in October, reports were leaked that Mr Turnbull had taken a submission to Cabinet, arguing that the Government should sign the Kyoto Protocol. Mr Howard did not deny the claims. Crikey covered the rift here.

Labor:

Labor’s plan to tackle climate change includes:

– Committing to cut Australia’s greenhouse pollution by 60% by 2050 through an emissions trading scheme and rebates on energy saving technology.

– The ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and establishing a diplomatic climate change initiative with China.

– $500 million National Clean Coal Fund to invest in advanced coal technologies.

– Investing in water projects to ensure that 30% of wastewater is recycled naturally by 2015.

– $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund designed to promote the use of cleaner, more efficient cars.

– $10,000 low interest loans available to households to implement water and energy savings.

– $100 million for a global solar energy hub and development of geothermal energy.

– Investing in the promotion of sustainable farming practices designed to reduce emissions while protecting native flora and fauna.

– Commissioning a review of the long-term economic cost of climate change for Australia.

– $150 million from Australia’s international aid budget to assist international neighbours to prepare for the effects of climate change.

– $60 million over three years to help farmers respond to climate change.

– $15 million towards a Clean Energy Export Strategy and up to $20 million for a Clean Energy Enterprise Connect Centre. These initiatives are designed to help “harness clean energy research and enterprise so that Australia can build a low carbon economy and export climate change solutions to the world”.

Kyoto

On 29 October 2007, Shadow Environment Minister Peter Garrett was forced to clarify Labor’s approach to signing a post-Kyoto agreement.

Earlier, Garrett had told the Financial Review it was not a “deal-breaker” if developing nations did not immediately agree to greenhouse gas reduction targets. Garrett responded later by clarifying that Labor would require, post-2012, “binding commitments from both developed and developing countries”.

The official Labor stance on Kyoto and post-Kyoto agreements is, according to their website:

  • If elected, a Rudd Labor Government would proceed immediately to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Federal Labor recognises that the Kyoto Protocol for the current commitment period (2008-2012) imposes carbon targets on developed countries while providing developing countries with other mechanisms (such as the Clean Development Mechanism) as a means of enhancing their own greenhouse gas reduction programs up to 2012 and beyond.
  • Federal Labor believes that leadership must come first from developed economies, including Australia and the United States, as a statement of developed country bona fides in order to enhance developing country acceptance of binding commitments for the second commitment period beyond 2012.
  • Federal Labor would be an active diplomatic participant in the December 2007 Bali Conference (and the ensuing negotiating process) with the objective of agreeing as soon as possible to further binding commitments for post 2012 – for both developed and developing countries.
  • Appropriate developing country commitments for the post-2012 commitment period under a binding international agreement would be an essential prerequisite for Australian support for such an agreement.

The Greens:

The Greens’ website outlines their Six Step Climate Change Action Plan:

  • Set science-based emission reduction targets of 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 80% by 2050, with a ‘polluter pays’ emissions trading scheme based on these targets.
  • Turn around Australia’s ballooning energy demand with a substantial investment in increasing energy efficiency across the economy.
  • Ensure 15% of Australia’s energy comes from clean, renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2020 as important milestones in the progress to a zero-emissions energy sector.
  • Immediately end the logging and burning of old growth forests.
  • Shift our transport away from inefficient, petrol-guzzling private cars to efficient, biofuel or electric cars and fast, efficient and cheap mass transit.
  • Ratify the Kyoto Protocol and participate fully in global negotiations for strong post-Kyoto targets.

 

Peter Fray

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