As the political parties look to the race up the mountain to the election, the person wearing the yellow jersey for pollution reduction may come as a surprise to some, it’s Tony Abbott. That’s the finding of the first run of our Pollute-o-meter across the present policies of the ALP and the Coalition. The Pollute-o-meter, conducted for The Climate Institute by independent consultants Climate Risk, reveals that present policies of the major parties will see Australia’s 2020 pollution levels at 21% above 2000 levels under the ALP and 7% above for the Coalition. Much greater detail is needed and expected from both sides in the election race’s coming weeks. As we await the outcomes of Tuesday’s Cabinet deliberations, the Coalition is in front on the pollution reduction stakes largely because of its Emission Reduction Fund. This fund, directed to internationally compliant outcomes, achieves 76 megatonnes of reduction. The Government’s pre-emptive cancellation of its greens loans and home insulation schemes has negated the small gains made by amending its renewable energy target legislation. Neither major party has credible policies for achieving the remarkably still bipartisan backed targets of 5%-25% reductions off 2000 levels by 2020. The Greens, with a limited amount of international offsets, do achieve the 25% target.

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While the Coalition edges in front in the pollution reduction stakes, separate analysis by The Climate Institute of broader policies, including the extent to which policies help build global ambition and action on pollution and climate change, has the Government with its wheel ahead. We’ve boiled down this additional analysis to a rating out of five stars after examining performance under three categories:
  1. Limiting and reducing pollution at home and abroad
  2. Making businesses take responsibility for the pollution they cause
  3. Making clean energy cheaper
The Climate Institute’s Action Plan on Pollution and Climate Change and summary set out the policy priorities the basis for this assessment. Our analysis reveals the extent of the policy race to the bottom over recent months with the Government scoring just one star out of five to the Coalition’s half a star.  The Greens rate four stars. The ALP scores relatively strongly on its international policies but is let down badly by the domestic policy vacuum left by the delay of its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The Coalition scores relatively poorly across all three policy sections but trails especially with its slashing of investment in a global agreement -- it removed international financing commitments in its Budget reply. Ultimately pollution and climate change policy is not about points or stars, or how much Lycra you wear. Good policy is about the extent to which economies make the shift to clean energy and low pollution.  Australia’s highly pollution dependent economy poses risks for our health, our environment and our economy. Globally there is a race on for clean energy and low pollution technology.  It’s driven not just because of concerns about climate change, but also by concerns about clean air, clean water and energy security and independence. Research conducted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance for Westpac and The Climate Institute estimates that global clean energy investment will continue its durability through the global financial crisis in 2010 with some $US184 billion of investment.  This research also shows Australia has been lagging in this race. Recent polling research highlights that Australians will reward a party that rolls out a detailed plan on pollution and climate change -- it’s time for the race to the top to begin. The Climate Institute’s Pollute-o-meter and star rating analytical tools will be continually updated throughout the campaign here.