In The Daily Fix, Crikey taps into the wisdom of experts and community leaders to find solutions to problems. Today: climate change.
If the prime minister wanted to take serious action on climate change — and, more importantly, encourage other levels of government, businesses and individuals to take action — he would simply say that it is real, that it’s caused by burning fossil fuels, and that it’s one of the biggest threats to our national sovereignty, security, prosperity and environmental wellbeing.
He would insist that those members of his backbench who question the science or the need to act are as entitled to their view as he is entitled to ignore them.
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From a policy point of view he would commit to transitioning away from fossil fuels as soon as possible. He would ban the construction of new coal oil and gas production. He would reassure people that this in no way will lead to “shutting down the energy system overnight”. It will simply be the first step towards a transition to a world that burns less fossil fuels.
He would stop the subsidies for fossil fuel construction and consumption and redirect the tens of billions of dollars per year currently spent on subsidies towards helping regions and industries to adapt.
This would be far more help than we gave the car industry, or the textile industry, or the call centre industry when free trade deals cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. But it’s a small price to pay to fairly facilitate the rapid transition we need.
He would set renewable energy targets and storage targets that give industry the confidence to invest. And he would introduce efficiency standards for cars, trucks, houses and commercial buildings. A carbon price would help provide even more incentive.
Tackling climate change isn’t an economic or engineering challenge. It’s a political one.
Richard Denniss is the chief economist of The Australia Institute.