Labor climate policy will be judged by what it delivers

Photo by Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Contributed by Jim Hayes

Labor went to the May election with a promise to act on climate. The Greens and most of the independents took a stronger line on this issue. It is one of the major factors that brought them electoral success.

Recent weeks have seen talks behind closed doors to hammer out a deal. Labor wants to set a minimum target of 45 percent carbon emission reduction target by 2030. The Greens and independents want a higher target, and the sticking point is they want no more gas projects to get the go ahead.

Climate change minister Chris Bowen says that the 45 percent in a minimum but that the government will not countenance an end to new gas projects.

Photo by Mike Bowers: Climate change minister Chris Bowen

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has taken the pro fossil fuel aspect of the government’s position to ridiculously suggest that increasing coal exports is good for the climate because it is cleaner coal. His mind is really of the view that this is important for Australia’s economic recovery. With this he peddles the false argument put forward by Morrison and other before him. Climate change imposes a much greater cost on the economy.

The prime minister faces the reality that a section of his party wants Australia to continue to be locked into the fossil fuel industry. He wants to keep them on side.

It is a contradictory position. But it remains that even with this glaring weakness, Labor’s present position is streets ahead of what the Morrison government offered, and even Labor’s own past policy. The most positive part about it is that it further isolates those forces intent on denying any meaningful climate action.

Australia has made it clear that it wants meaningful action.

This still doesn’t mean that the needed legislation will get through. The support of the Greens and some of the independents is necessary to get over opposition from the Coalition parties. Discussions have been intense. But there is an air of compromise as the greens are seriously considering accepting a situation where fossil fuel companies have to have their proposed projects asses for their effects on the climate.

Photo by Mick Tsikas/AAP: Greens Leader Adam Bandt

Whether the legislation gets through, or the measures are applied by administrative means, the alternative already canvassed by the minister, is not what is most important. What happens in the medium to longer terms is. The Labor government must produce some quick results to maintain legitimacy. How will this set the scene to upscale the effort with even stronger community support?

There is no alternative but to ratchet up efforts to cut carbon. There must be a large-scale energy transition towards sustainable sources, and this can’t wait long. Without this, the change is only cosmetic. And it is not only about how energy is generated. The economy must be transformed from dependence on fossil fuels to embracing new priorities, technologies, ad methods.

This is where the real battle is. Now is the time to consolidate and build further the movement for change deep in our communities. Considerable progress has already been made. Much more is possible. This is where the possibility for change is generated. The lead won’t come from Canberra. It hasn’t in the past and won’t in the future. But Canberra can be forced to listen if the voice is loud enough.

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