While the government’s continued failure on climate policy is not exactly news, I thought their existential convulsions and the troubles of Turnbull and his environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, this week were noteworthy for a couple of reasons.
Last week it was announced by Frydenberg that the planned review into energy policy would reconsider the possibility of carbon pricing. Of course they didn’t want to use the words so they called it an ‘emissions intensity program,’ instead, but they were still talking about a pricing mechanism.
Unsurprisingly, within days the hard right of his party were flexing their muscle (although it still puzzles me where this strength comes from), reacting with horror to the possibility that the government might actually think about possibly considering doing something about global warming. Meanwhile the Labor party and many progressive commentators were quick to point out the COALition’s stance and the reaction of the Murdoch Press differed markedly on this issue to when Julia Gillard was in power a few years ago. And in no time, Turnbull, gutless lapdog that he is, had rolled over and categorically ruled out any consideration of a carbon pricing scheme for energy.
This of course looked even stupider when the independent review into energy security, the government itself commissioned as part of its disingenuous politicising of the South Australian power outages, was released later in the week. The report found that the government’s inaction on climate change was actually contributing to a lack of investment and innovation in the energy sector (is anyone surprised) and more damningly that the BEST way to improve energy security and reduce the cost of electricity was to introduce an emissions intensity program.
Considering that was from someone appointed by the government themselves and not sponsored by a progressive or environmental group, that was a massive statement and one you might have expected them to take seriously (until you remember how the treat their own human rights commissioners). Sure enough, even in the face of the revelation that there was an economic imperative (alongside the environmental one and our international treaty obligations) to carbon pricing for energy, the climate sceptics in the government were adamant that it could not even be considered in a review.
Without the economic argument, what is the justification for the continued intransigence of Bernardi, Christenson and co towards renewable energy? Nothing. It is now either a childish refusal to admit they were wrong or a case of politicians so far in the pocket of the coal industry they can’t imagine climbing out, hence the proposed billion dollar loan to Adani to build a supposedly profitable coal mine, whilst paying almost no tax.
Aside from highlighting the point that economics is no longer a reason the COALition can give for their position I wanted to make a second point to those of us who favour action on climate. Turnbull’s mire is largely of his own making and while his coal-fired opponents have little need for restraint, his progressive opponents could take a higher road here. Any efforts by moderates within the COALition (if there are any) should be encouraged. Our continued inaction on climate change is too significant a problem to be slowed for political gain. When those on the left attacked Frydenberg and Turnbull for their inconsistency the moment the review was announced, it weakens the moderates at the expense of the hard right. The next time a Liberal politician admits we might need to do something about climate policy, let’s just welcome that and focus on attacking the dinosaurs and coal industry stooges who continue to sabotage our future for their own purposes.