Victorians "deserve nothing less" than the indequate measures that are proposed, and Labor has a quite a few strings to their bow in their efforts to denigrate science-based approaches. Among them, Fiona Richardson and the Brumby Labor Government:
- Claim Victoria's climate initiatives are somehow leading-edge because they are the best of a bad bunch in a country that has so far failed on climate change when judged against the benchmark of the science.
At the Darebin Climate Action Now Q & A, Richardson quoted apparently positive comments from environmental groups. Unfortunately, they have just revised their scorecard on the environment, concluding that Labor is at 47% with a lot of work to do - so much for cutting-edge.
- Paint as extreme anyone who takes a zero emissions stance, or who advocates the complete closure of Hazelwood. Yet the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Plan is a credible proposal developed with the University of Melbourne, and the closure of Hazelwood is advocated by eminent scientists such as the university's Professor David Karoly, who was a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and chaired the Premier's own climate change reference group.
In his press release, the Premier said of the group back in August 2008:
“The Victorian Government is ready to take the action needed to meet the challenges of climate change and I want to ensure we get the best advice from the best science, policy and business experts in the State.”
So, what are we to think when a figure like David Karoly is held in such high regard by the Premier, yet writes calling for the closure of Hazelwood, and is the key speaker at last weekend's Environment Victoria rally calling for this to be achieved within the next term of the Victorian Government? What has changed?
- Distance the Victorian Government from coal, yet it is plainly open to future brown coal initiatives on a large scale.
The Exergen proposal to ship dried brown coal to India is believed to have been temporarily shelved due to fears of a voter backlash. A proposal for a new port at Hastings has been justified by saying it will be needed to deal with coal exports. There is also a current proposal for a brown coal gasification plant in the Latrobe Valley that scientist and former Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery, has described as a $750 million dollar mistake.
Flannery makes clear that you simply can't compensate for the emissions of continuing to burn coal through other climate initiatives, such as expanding renewable energy. See my presentation on this point, and the comments of the world's leading climate scientist, James Hansen, that the climate problem is only solvable if we stop using coal.
In short, unless Victorians vote for climate action, this State election will be a flimsy wall holding back a mountain of brown coal.
- Characterise transitional proposals as unrealistic. Surely it's better to have an ambitious aim with some chance of avoiding the worst climate impacts, than having a "moderate" aim with no chance at all - such as that proposed by the Brumby Government.
Climate tipping points are moving towards us, and Labor's plan is like responding to the advice of your oncologist to remove a melanoma immediately by asking him to take half of it out in six months' time.
- Highlight job losses and the cost of climate action, when the cost appears large only if the impacts of doing nothing or too little on climate are not properly costed themselves (as I say in my presentation). Sir Nicholas Stern and Professor Ross Garnaut have made similar points. It is also widely acknowledged that many jobs will be created in the transition to a low emissions economy (ACTU media release re their green jobs report).
- Link anyone who advocates strong action to the Greens. Labor's nightmare scenario is where a commitment to science-based action becomes widespread among opposing parties and independents, so it is in their interest to make climate progressives seem part of some sort of Greens conspiracy. Yet, I have never been a member of a political party, and have voted both Labor and Greens in the past.