With the next COAG meeting in October cancelled because the government is too divided and confused to work out its policy positions, and no position in crucial areas like energy and the economy, it’s clear that the Morrison government is big on mateship, a fair go and other ockerisms, but bereft of policy.
There’s one key area, however, where the lack of policy isn’t the result of confusion, incompetence, division or needing a new treasurer or minister to get up to speed, but quite deliberate. The Morrison government will literally have no climate policy.
“The renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020, it reaches its peak in 2020, and we won’t be replacing that with anything,” climate denialist Energy Minister Angus Taylor proudly said yesterday.
Since 2009, the Coalition has serially dumped (after initially supporting) a carbon price, then rejected a clean energy target, ruled out (after briefly ruling in) an emission intensity scheme, approved Josh Frydenberg’s National Energy Guarantee (NEG) overwhelmingly in the joint party room, then dramatically overhauled it, then dumped it altogether in the space of a few days. It also declared war on renewables under Tony Abbott, declared its love for big renewables projects like Snowy Hydro 2.0 under Turnbull, and is now praising “fair dinkum” — i.e. fossil fuel — power under the coal-toting Morrison.
Along the way, it used its “soil magic” business handout program, the Emission Reduction Fund, as a fig leaf for its lack of climate policy, but dramatically scaled that back from its original form in opposition, cut it further in government, and finally stopped funding it altogether in recent budgets.
That means that the Morrison government is more climate denialist than Tony Abbott: it doesn’t even have the fig leaf ERF, which continues to dribble out funding to business and farmer mendicants but which will soon expire. The Coalition has actually gone backwards from the heady days when Abbott declared climate science was “crap”, and no longer even bothers to pay lip service to the idea of addressing climate change.
There is talk that the ERF will be revived with an infusion of funds. But that doesn’t count as a credible policy: the cost of using the ERF to meet Australia’s Paris emissions reduction targets will be between $100 billion and $250 billion, according to the government’s friends at the Australian Industry Group. Short of discovering a quarter-trillion dollars down the back of the couch, Australia will become one of the few developed countries in the world that simply refuses to address its carbon emissions.