• Proportion of Australians who think climate change is happening, and humans bear at least some responsibility: 57%
  • Proportion of people who think Australia should be a leader in finding solutions to climate change: 58%
  • Proportion of Australians who are concerned climate change may destroy the Great Barrier Reef: 75%

That’s what the Climate Institute found in a survey released today. It reveals we’re still confused by the issue, and don’t like policies from Labor or the Liberals. But it also shows that despite Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s three-year crusade against carbon pricing — yesterday he described emissions trading as “a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one” — people do want action and effective policy on climate change.

The sceptics’ campaign has failed.

Today, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd explained the ALP’s latest climate policy. The carbon tax will switch to an emissions trading scheme in July, slashing the carbon price. This is not without problems; we are tying our carbon scheme to troubled markets (European Union carbon permits are trading today at A$5.70; UN permits at about 43 cents), and Rudd is bribing households with systematic, widespread overcompensation.

The choice voters now have is between Labor’s ETS and the Coalition’s vow to have no price on carbon pollution, rather the government picks winners, buying emissions reductions directly. Good luck finding economists and public policy experts who think the latter is a good idea.

Climate policy in Australia has been a stellar example of how not to draft public policy. It’s time for continuity, expertise and a dose of pragmatism. Neither party’s policy is ideal, but Labor’s plan to join a global ETS does have some merit from an economic and public policy standpoint.

Abbott has made his mark as a populist and a pragmatist. As the Climate Institute found, people want climate change addressed. Isn’t it time Abbott the populist smelt the winds of change and signed up to a reasonably effective policy?

Even John Howard believed in implementing a “so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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