Last week Clive Hamilton’s Crikey piece criticised GetUp’s political strategy on climate change, making two main assertions: firstly, that GetUp’s current campaign is misplaced; secondly, that individual action to reduce emissions “would have virtually no effect”.

So we’re willing to lay our strategy on the table — GetUp is trying to ensure that Australia is not a blocker in international climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

Why? Because Australian diplomats are influential and in the past have demonstrated an outstanding ability to deliver on destructive briefs provided to them by their political bosses. Under the Howard Government they were, of course, damaging to Kyoto negotiations. Last year, the Australian negotiating team exhibited another ignoble performance in Poznan.

It is vital therefore that Australian diplomats are not given a harmful scheme and a weak target to spruik this December. If they are, they’ll do a stellar job, once again, at blocking the strong international deal we need for global targets in line with recent climate science.

The most important debate we need to have at the moment, as Clive correctly points out, is about the Rudd Government’s weak emission reduction targets. 5-15% is a carbon cop out, and of course GetUp will continue to campaign for stronger targets in line with Australia’s global responsibilities.

But we can not let the Government get away with everything else that’s wrong with the CPRS by ignoring design flaws in the scheme. We’ve heard that Australian companies are already being hired as consultants internationally, assisting with the development of other emissions trading schemes around the world.

Fixing the design flaws to recognise Government driven complementary measures will allow Australia to sign on to a stronger international target, rather than limiting us to a position that we know is too weak.

To argue against the recognition of additional action in our Emissions Trading Scheme is to suggest that extra individual and Government action (such as the mass roll out of green buildings, public transport, insulation or energy efficiency programs) on top of the weak 5% target is unnecessary. An ETS alone will not solve the climate crisis.

We agree with Clive that Australians should demand a stronger emissions reduction target. It was disappointing that his article selectively ignored a solid year of GetUp campaigning to that end.

Some of the more high-profile points in our targets campaign have included a TV ad broadcast nationally in response to the targets announcement; a 100,000 strong petition calling for strong targets; mobile billboards outside The Lodge; full-page newspaper ads calling for strong targets to renew our economy and boost green jobs; and grassroots community actions in over 120 locations calling for a 50% by 2020 carbon reduction cut as part of GetUp’s National Climate Torch Relay.

Part of GetUp’s strategy, as Clive points to, is to support progressive voices, wherever they may come from. Malcolm Turnbull’s entry into the debate on climate solutions is a positive one. Turnbull is far from getting his climate policy right yet, but his commitment to support a stronger target than the Rudd Government is important. No political party should have an automatic monopoly on the climate vote (even the Greens). Why shouldn’t Australia end up with a situation like the UK, when the Tories and Labor out-bid each other in pursuit of the climate vote?

As a people powered movement, GetUp will continue to respond to the voices of our members. Those voices are telling us that there is a huge amount of anger and disappointment amongst a growing number of Australians who feel betrayed on climate change promises. They care about the incredibly weak targets, and the badly-designed scheme, because they know, like Clive, that we are running out of time to solve climate change.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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