Tag Archives: Greenhouse trigger

9 June, 2011 – Productivity Commission

 

On this day in 2011, at the height of the Gillard ETS battle, the  Productivity Commission produced a report.  It had been a condition of two independent MPs – Windsor and Oakestott – supporting Gillard’s minority government.  The report looked internationally at emissions reductions policies and found “much lower-cost abatement could be achieved through broad, explicit carbon pricing approaches, irrespective of the policy settings in competitor economies.”  So, not so much support for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s “Direct Action”…

[see Garnaut 2014, chapter in Quiggin ed book on carbon taxes..]

 

 

Also on this day

Clark, P. 1989. Unions may as well be talking to the trees. Sydney Morning Herald, 20 June, p13

AN ODDLY portentous scene was played out behind the closed doors of the ALP national executive’s last meeting in Canberra on June 9 by two of the party’s toughest right-wing figures: the Federal Environment Minister, Graham Richardson, and the AWU general secretary, Errol Hodder.

Hodder, who had left the executive meeting briefly, returned to be told that while he was away Richardson had spoken of how the union movement had to reassess its position on the environment, and that someone present had said that the ACTU’s attitude on the issue was “stupid”.

Never backward in coming forward, Hodder leapt up to make a strong defence of the union movement’s reaction to the growing importance of the environmental debate.

What he said, in essence, was that the unions were well aware of the significance of the issue but the Government had to recognise a few things too. A tree might be a pretty thing to look at, but the view palled when you’d been put out of a job and you’d a mortgage to pay and a family to feed.

1990    (TEXT FROM 1997 APH chronology) The first assessment report of the IPCC Working Group I  was released including predictions of global warming and climatic impacts (a supplement was added in 1992). The best estimates from Working Group I (scientific  analysis) were a 3C rise in global temperature and a 0.65m sea level rise by 2100. Australian scientist Dr Greg Tegart was a Co-Vice-Chairman on the Climate Change, The IPCC Impacts Assessment report from Working Group II. Consensus was also reached at the Response Strategies Working Group of the IPCC, Working Group III. The Scientific and Impact Assessment reports concluded   that emissions from human activities were increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which  was likely to enhance the natural greenhouse effect resulting in global warming.

By 9 June 2000, The Australian was reporting that the trigger proposal ‘faces defeat when it reaches Cabinet’ and that when the issue was discussed by Cabinet, ‘Senator Hill was almost a lone voice of support.’ (Macintosh, 2007: 50)

2005 press conference Carr and Howard –

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve made progress on water, you’ve got a national scheme to (inaudible), same thing for carbon trading, for emissions trading?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we have, at the present time Mr Carr and I and the other States I think line up, the States line up with Mr Carr and we have just different views. Now let’s be sensible, we don’t agree all the time, but the important thing is to agree as many times as possible and to deliver outcomes that are good for the public.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how highly do you rate global warming as a threat? The Premier rates it very highly.

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, I’ve said in the past that I think the scientific evidence is very, very strong. I don’t know that I embrace every expression of concern that’s come from everybody who would favour some different policies than I do, but I have a different view about signing the Kyoto Protocol from that of Mr Carr, but that is based not on a belief that we shouldn’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, it relates more to the comparability of treatment of an economy such as Australia and that of such Indonesia and China. But that is for a discussion for another day. We have agreed to disagree on that issue, but we haven’t come here to parade with rhetorical flourish our different approaches.

 

Marks, K. 2010. Australian billionaires take to the streets for tax protest. The Independent, 10 June.

Australian billionaires take to the streets for tax protest

It was, by any measure, a most unusual rally. Many of the placard-waving protesters gathered in a Perth park wore suits and ties, and impassioned speeches were delivered from the back of a flat-bed truck by two billionaires, including Australia’s richest woman.

May 24, 1994 – Labor Foreign Affairs Minister on the UNFCCC

I’m as happy to bash the Howard government (1996-2007) for its egregious record of environmental vandalism as the next guy.  But let’s not pretend, please, that the Labor governments before and after them were wonderful.  This, from 23 years ago, showed Labor in less than full-throated commitment to what it had signed two years previously.  By the end of the year, they’d be openly talking about withdrawal…

 

Gill, P. 1994. Minister signals change of policy on greenhouse gas. The Australian Financial Review, 26 May, p.6.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Evans, has thrown doubt over a long-standing Federal Government position on greenhouse gases in a move which will alarm the business sector.

The doubts on Australia’s response to the UN Climate Change Convention were compounded by Senator Evans’ admission that Australia had recently been “rolled” on its tough stand on the Basel convention on hazardous wastes.

At a Senate Estimates Committee hearing on Tuesday [24th May], Victorian Liberal Senator Judith Troeth asked: “Has Cabinet agreed that Australia will not implement measures under the climate change convention which would damage our competitiveness, unless other countries also do so?”

Senator Evans replied: “It is premature to be drawing conclusions. Cabinet has not addressed the issue in those terms and it would be premature of it to do so.”

But Cabinet has considered the Government’s greenhouse gas response in those terms and the business sector has drawn some encouragement from the Government’s position that Australia’s economic growth would not be compromised by its response.

 

Also on this day

The Lavoisier group held a workshop which had been postponed from the highly appropriate date of  1st April  (Taylor, L., 2000, 11 April). This provoked a media release –Dinosaur business group is an embarrassment” from Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace Australia

Media release – May 24, 2000

Australian environment groups have united in condemnation of a greenhouse meeting in Melbourne today, labelling it an embarrassment to Australia.

The meeting of the newly established “Lavoisier Group” is a move to discredit climate change science and bring together business groups in opposition to limiting greenhouse pollution.

These ‘climate sceptics’ fly in the face of the hundreds of global business players who gathered at the World Economic Forum’s Annual meeting in Davos this January. This business group resolved that climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world at the beginning of the century.

Speaking from the meeting today, Greenpeace Political Liaison Officer, Shane Rattenbury said; “This is an embarrassment for Australian industry. These people are five years behind the facts.”

Meanwhile, the BCA kept firing warning shots…

Keep the Finger Off the Greenhouse Trigger: BCA

24 May 2000

The Business Council of Australia today called on the federal government to develop a framework for a mature and productive debate about the establishment of a greenhouse trigger and other greenhouse measures.

The BCA’s Executive Director, Mr David Buckingham, said the differing views expressed earlier this week by federal Cabinet ministers graphically illustrated the need for such a debate.

“It is transparent the trigger has some very real issues associated with it, including the potential adverse impact on investment, jobs and regional development,” Mr Buckingham said.

 

 

Labor sent out a media statement too.

Government Fails The Greenhouse Challenge Nick Bolkus – Shadow Minister For Environment

Media Statement – 24 May 2000

“The government needs to put an end to its internal bickering on Greenhouse and start making some much needed progress towards meeting our targets” said Senator Bolkus today.

This morning’s report in the Australian Financial Review represents a wake up call to the Federal Government. Unless we get serious now, the next set of targets imposed on Australia will be a lot more onerous.

“With emission levels already some 19% over 1990 levels, how does the Government expect to deliver on its international Kyoto target commitment to constrain emissions growth to 108% over 1990 level?” said Senator Nick Bolkus, Shadow Minister for the Environment.

Today’s news shows quite starkly that the Government programs are not meeting the challenge, that the Government is not serious, and that to date Senator Hill has been concealing the truth. It was only a few weeks ago that he was telling the Senate that Australia would meet our targets.

“It is a myth that emission reduction will hurt the economy” said Senator Bolkus. “Efficiency improvements will strengthen the economy and make us more competitive. Investing in sinks will help combat salinity which is costing us billions each year.”

“Indeed, ABARE’s own research shows that under a very conservative costing analysis of greenhouse response, 85% of Australian industry will benefit.”(*)

“What Senator Minchin has failed to tell us is what it will cost us not to do anything. How much will we lose when the Great Barrier Reef is destroyed from coral bleaching within the next 40 years? How much will it cost to lose all our ski fields by 2070?(**)

Even the World Business Council on Sustainable Development has singled out Australia and highlighted our status on greenhouse:

“Australia has some specific challenges to deal with on climate change… Australia now needs to meet the targets and then be prepared to go further.”(***) ●

This Government has lost the bigger picture and is failing the Australian community.

(*) Evidence presented at the Senate Inquiry into Global Warming by the Sustainable Energy Industry Association (**) These scenarios based on CSIRO modelling (***) WBCSD-BCA Forum in Melbourne (May, 2000)

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media/pressrel/FDK16%22

The whole thing got picked up by Lenore Taylor in the Fin.

Industry groups yesterday began a public campaign to back the Federal Industry Minister, Senator Nick Minchin, and the deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Anderson, who are fighting to quash Senator Hill’s greenhouse trigger plan.

Taylor, L. 2000. Industry adds its weight to oppose greenhouse move. The Australian Financial Review, 25 May, p.7.

 

Meanwhile,

Strutt, S. 2000. Mining blasts Queensland freeze on coal-fired energy. The Australian Financial Review, 25 May, p.7.

Moves by the Queensland Government to slash greenhouse gas emissions, including a freeze on new generating licences for coal-fired power stations, have been condemned by the mining industry amid widespread predictions of a hike in electricity prices…. But Mr Beattie said the industry had to realise it was a “political certainty” the Federal Government would move to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions in the near future.

Ha ha ha ha.

 

May 23,1980 Senator worries about climate change impacts…

On this day in 1980, a Liberal (yes, Liberal) senator from South Australia, Don Jessop, talked about the dangers of climate change in the Australian senate.  The whole lot is here.  And below a clip…

Senator JESSOP (South Australia) – “I also welcome the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Bill 1980 and will make a few brief remarks about it….

“The first article, entitled ‘World ecology is endangered’, is from the Melbourne Age of 16 April, and deals with an examination by a panel of internationally recognised scientists. They told the United States Congress: . . that the world could face an ecological disaster unless the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere is controlled.

The second article is older, having been written on 28 February 1977. It is entitled ‘Heating Up: Global Race for Antarctic’s Riches’, [From  U.S. News & World Report] and I wish to have only highlights of that article incorporated in Hansard.

We knew. Or should have. We blew it.

Jessop?  Came acropper in 87.  Grattan, M. 1987  SA Libs demote Hill, drop Jessop. The Age, 9 June. p 3

Also on this day

2000-

Senator Hill had been ambushed. It appears neither he nor his staff were aware the trigger proposal was likely to face such fierce opposition in Cabinet….  The anti-greenhouse, anti-trigger camp did not stop at this. The following day [23 May 2000] senator Minchin presented research he had commissioned from Dr Brian Fisher of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), a critic of the Kyoto Protocol, which found that meeting Australia’s Kyoto target could cost between 0.5 per cent and 1.4 per cent of Gross National Product at 2010. The fossil fuel lobby used this research as a springboard to back Anderson’s and Minchin’s position, suggesting the trigger would have significant adverse economic implications. Dick Wells, the executive director of the Minerals Council of Australia, was quoted in the Australian Financial Review as saying, ‘[w]e agree with John Anderson that the trigger would harm employment and regional growth…..

(Macintosh, 2007: 50)

2000 Taylor, L. 2000. Industry adds its weight to oppose greenhouse move. The Australian Financial Review, 25 May, p.7.

Industry started a strong campaign against the Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill’s, proposed greenhouse trigger yesterday. This follows a fiery Cabinet discussion on Tuesday [23rd] over new greenhouse measures proposed by the Senator.

The Federal Cabinet is understood to have reached a clear understanding on Tuesday that no extra greenhouse requirements should be imposed on the proposed $1billion Kogan Creek power station in Queensland.

It rejected a memo from Senator Hill that the project be forced to invest in greenhouse-abatement projects to offset its own emissions. However, a spokesman for the Environment Minister said the Cabinet had not made a final decision.

Taylor, L. and Skulley, M. 2000. Cabinet clash on greenhouse. The Australian Financial Review, 24 May, p1.

Federal Cabinet faces a showdown over greenhouse environmental issues after ministers yesterday heard alarming predictions that meeting Australia’s emission targets could significantly cut economic growth and boost fuel prices.

The Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill, and the Minister for Industry, Senator Nick Minchin, both entered Cabinet yesterday armed with new evidence about the extent of Australia’s greenhouse problems.

Economic research commissioned by Senator Minchin found that forcing industry to meet Australia’s targets under the Kyoto international greenhouse agreement could reduce gross national product by up to 1.4 per cent in 2010.

(MINCHIN COMMISSIONED BRIAN FISCHER TO DO ANOTHER SKY FALL DOCUMENT)

 

 

2013  Ian Dunlop in Canberra (riff on BHP?)

 

 

 

 

May 22, 2009 – ‘skyfall’ economic modelling’ around the CPRS

The mining industry has been releasing economic “studies” about climate change since 1989, when CRA (later to be renamed Rio Tinto) started the ball rolling.  They are usually exquisitely timed around some important decision that the government is about to make – signing up to the UNFCCC, thinking about a carbon tax, whatever.

Well, in 2009, just after Kevin Rudd had released the CPRS legislation, there was a front page story on the Australian, faithfully reporting the “findings” of another study.

Taylor, L. 2009. Climate change warning: ETS to `cost 24,000jobs’. The Australian, 22 May p1.
THE Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme will cost 23,510 mining jobs over the next decade — almost half of them in Queensland — according to new modelling released as parliament prepares to decide the fate of the controversial climate change legislation.

On page 12 the then head of the Minerals Council of Australia got to say his bit too.
Hooke, M. 2009. Carbon plan will cause jobs carnage. The Australian, 22 May, p. 12.

Why change a winning strategy, I guess….

Also on this day-
Dunn, R. 1989. Plebiscite mooted. Australian Financial Review, 22 May.
The Federal Minister for the Environment, Senator Richardson, has floated the idea of holding a referendum to increase the Commonwealth’s powers to override the States on environmental issues such as the greenhouse effect.
He raised the idea at an environmental conference at the weekend.

2000
“Prior to a Cabinet meeting on 22 May [2000] where the greenhouse trigger was to be discussed, the then Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson publicly criticised the proposal, describing it as ‘unnecessary and inappropriate’ and suggesting it would harm the economy, particularly in regional [page break] areas. In a press release issued on 22 May, Anderson said that ‘it was not necessary or appropriate for the Commonwealth to effectively take over the State’s role in the environmental assessment and approval of major developments.”
(Macintosh, 2007: 49-50)

Dobbin, M. 2007. BP, Rio in clean coal power bid; Project based on Canberra research. Canberra Times, 22 May.
BP and Rio Tinto announced joint plans yesterday for a $2billion coal- fired power station at Kwinana in Western Australia that would be the first in Australia to capture and store its greenhouse gas emissions deep underground. The so-called clean coal station which could be completed within seven years would produce enough power to supply 500,000 houses.

March 4, 1998 – First ‘Australian Greenhouse Office’ boss named

In 1997, John Howard had a climate change head-ache. He was trying to get a sweet deal at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Kyoto. But he most definitely did NOT want to commit Australia to any emissions reduction target. His former ally the USA had (sort of) switched sides, and domestically he was also copping grief. Even his own party was divided on this, with grandees like John Carrick as part of a ‘pro-action delegation’. His speech on 20 November 1997 contained two pieces of ‘eye-candy’. One was a mandatory renewable energy target (we will come back to this) and the second was the creation of an ‘Australian Greenhouse Office’ that was supposed to make All the Good Things Happen. Thus do politicians try to ‘virtue-signal’ without actually doing anything disruptive. The game is the game.

Which is all leading up to this – on this day in 1998 Environment Minister Robert Hill announced that Gwen Andrews would be AGOs first boss. When she quit, years later, she revealed that she never once had been asked to brief Howard.

Also on this day

1999

“The greenhouse trigger was first proposed in the context of the deliberations over, and inquiries into, the EPBC Bill in the mid to late 1990s. Environment groups and others argued that a significant weakness in the Bill was the absence of any measures that directly addressed greenhouse emissions. For example, Shane Rattenbury from Greenpeace argued before the Senate Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts Legislation committee in March 1999 that:
“The main problem at the moment is in fact the greenhouse issue, which we believe will not be addressed under the proposed legislation.  In fact it cannot be addressed at the moment…. If we do not have a greenhouse trigger in this new legislation… the Commonwealth will put itself into the untenable position of having no control over the potential developments in Australia that will have major greenhouse implications.”

(Macintosh, 2007: 47) in Bonyhady and Christoff, 2007 ‘Climate Law in Australia

 

Wedges of coal – Morrison, Howard stunts and catastrophe #auspol #climate

The Treasurer Scott Morrison brandished a lump of coal in Parliament last week, against rules that are supposed to prevent props being used (Adam Bandt has since brought a solar panel. The speaker has now told everyone to knock it off).

Morrison, mocking the Labor Party members, cooed “This is coal… Don’t be afraid…  don’t be scared.” (And has since boasted about this to radio shocking jock Ray Hadley.)

As one astute  journalist wrote three years ago it’s part of

“a long campaign to redefine the stuff that comes from burning coal as a “colourless, odourless gas”, a harmless three-way cuddle between one carbon and two oxygen atoms that, happily, provides “plant food”

While a purple haze introduced  to the Bureau of Meteorology maps in 2013  causes confusion, Australia, like many other countries, faces an ‘energy trilemma’ – problems of price, security and decarbonisation.

The recent announcements (you can’t  really call them proposals) by Resources Minister Matt Canavan , Malcolm Turnbull,  and now Scott Morrison do not actually address any of these problems.

Clean coal is not going to be cheap, “clean” coal is not going to be clean enough to compete with gas or renewables, and most importantly clean coal is not going to happen – the CEFC, Bloomberg, and AEMO have all pointed out that, given the expectation of future carbon constraints, no private investor will come anywhere near new coal.  Gina Rinehart isn’t interested  and so the government (i.e. the taxpayer) would have to bankroll it, something that Barnaby Joyce is relaxed about.

Policy versus politics
What we are seeing is not actually a policy battle, but a politics battle, and one that has been going on since at least 2000. That was the year that, after the Australian Greenhouse Office had commissioned a series of reports on the emissions trading, then-Environment Minister Robert Hill, brought a proposal for an emissions trading scheme to Cabinet. It was defeated thanks to the opposition of Liberal Senator Nick Minchin.  Meanwhile, battles over whether the Kyoto Protocol should be ratified were raging, both among politicians and within industry.  Australia had received a very generous ‘reduction’ target that actually meant it could increase its emissions to 108% of its 1990 level, and this was supplemented by a clause (known as the Australia clause) which gave credit for reductions in land-clearing, but still they prevaricated.

Howard famously decided that Australia would not ratify unless the US did, so things were basically put on hold until after the 2000 US Presidential election.  Labor, seeking green votes, seemed more keen, but  under influence of the powerful CFMEU Union, re-wrote policy platform in mid-2000 to remove mention of Kyoto Ratification.  Then Shadow environment minister Nick Bolkus famously said “...I am not going to be a kamikaze pilot when it comes to taking Australian industry and Australian jobs.”   Labor confirmed support for Kyoto ratification before the 2001 Federal Election,  and Howard toured the Hunter Valley to argue ratification would cost jobs, raise power prices and hurt industry.
[McSweeny, L., Polglaze, K. and Hamilton, F. 2001. Fed – Govt warns of job losses under ALP Kyoto plan.  Australian Associated Press, 7 November.

Pulling the Greenhouse trigger
Howard’s wedging attempts continued – why change a winning game?  In late 2006, with the climate issue heating up, Labor and the Greens tried to get the ‘greenhouse trigger’ – the idea that the Federal Government should have both the power and the responsibility to give a final yay or nay on any particularly carbon intensive projects –  back on the agenda (this was another battle that Robert Hill had lost to Nick Minchin in 2000). The Environment Minister of the time, Ian Campbell, knew what to do….

According to one commentator  “Senator Campbell’s response to the criticisms was to describe the greenhouse trigger amendments as the ‘anti-coal amendment’ and seek to paint the ALP as being against the coal industry.”
(Macintosh, 2007: 54)

Labor, under Kevin Rudd,  tried to square the circle of climate concern and coal industry support with the notion of Carbon Capture and Storage, but this fell by the wayside by 2010 or so, after geological reality imposed itself and costs spiralled.   It is significant that the coal industry and government have switched to “High Efficiency Low Emissions” as their techno-fix du jour.

 Cultural battles
Meanwhile, the cultural battle – over who is ‘authentic’ and supportive of regional Australia continues unabated.  Prime Ministers Gillard and Abbott seemed glued to hard hats and fluoro jackets in their flesh-pressing tours.  In July 2014 Senator Ian MacDonald came to parliament in a fluorojacket, provided to him by the same people who gave Morrison his lump of coal.

One useful way to think of the current hi-jinks is as part of a cultural battle over the cleanliness and moral rectitude of a product or commodity.   The US firm General Electric tried to portray coal as sexy in this jaw-dropping 2005 advert

and a battle of television adverts on clean coal broke out in 2008/9 in the US.

The divestment campaign, which aims to make coal look outmoded and dangerous not only to the planet but also investors, is the key example, and it has drawn a sharp response from the coal industry and its political supporters (see especially October 2014, in the aftermath of the Australian National University’s announcement of a very partial divestment).

One relatively recent academic paper, called From Pabst to Pepsi: The Deinstitutionalization of Social Practices and the Creation of Entrepreneurial Opportunities captures the decades long struggle between the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the producers and sellers of alcohol.  The authors point out that as well as condemning alcohol, the anti-drinking movement also opened up space for entrepreneurs – motivated by morals or money or indeed both- to create an alternative product – ‘soft drinks’ as opposed to hard liquor.

That fight took decades (and ‘winning’ it lead to the disaster that was Prohibition). And the authors point out  that

“the brewery industry was composed of thousands of small, independent businesses. This fragmentation of the industry may account for its lack of success in refuting the WCTU’s attacks”

They continue

“multiple attacks by anti-smoking advocates such as the American Cancer Society on the tobacco industry—a consolidated industry with a few very large players—have had limited success in recent decades.”

The coal industry – often compared to Big Tobacco – has the same advantages, and it seems that Australia is no closer to finding a solution for the “nonn-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.” to the dismay and outrage of many, especially the young.

2017 is already living up to its billing.