Say No to Abbott’s ‘Direct Action’ Fraud!
For Real Climate Action Now!
Australians know bushfires and mega-droughts when they see them – and by a large margin, they agree that carbon emissions are changing our climate in dangerous ways. To reassure citizens that his government means to address the threat, Tony Abbott needs to present a ‘plan’.
Enter ‘Direct Action’ – perhaps the dodgiest offering ever put before Australian voters as major-party policy.
The scientists, no doubt, are fuming. Nothing in their research suggests the main ‘Direct Action’ climate fix – locking carbon emissions away in soils – would provide more than a fraction of the abatement claimed.
Likewise the economists. Competitive grant schemes such as ‘Direct Action’ are notoriously complex and expensive to run, and are often rorted. They have a record of working slowly and badly.
Large-scale carbon polluters, though, seem to like ‘Direct Action’ – as well they might. If the polluters think they can cut their emissions cheaply, they’re invited to put in for taxpayer-funded incentives. If they decide lowering pollution won’t pay for them – well, they don’t have to.
A Department of Climate Change analysis in 2010 concluded that with ‘Direct Action’, Australian emissions would actually rise instead of falling. But even assuming the scheme met all its targets, would this have anything like the effect required?
‘Direct Action’ sets a target of cutting Australian carbon emissions, by 2020, to a level 5 per cent below where they stood in 1990. Through to the end of the present decade, that amounts to cutting emissions by about 1 per cent per year.
One much-cited scientific study, though, concludes that global greenhouse emissions need to fall by 4 per cent per year from 2015, to provide a 50 per cent chance of avoiding ‘highly dangerous’ outcomes. (1) In a further study, the authors take up the issue of global climate justice, and argue that developed, historically high-emitting countries like Australia should aim at annual cuts of more than 10 per cent per year. (2)
‘Direct Action’won’t provide more than a small fraction of those reductions. The truth is, it’s not even meant to work – just to fool the ignorant and unwary.
For the polluters, Abbott has corporate welfare. For the mass of Australians, he has a snow job. For our environment, he offers devastation. And for our children and grandchildren, he has the promise of short, unpleasant lives.
For determined, effective strategies
Like the Coalition, the Labor Party has failed the test of climate change.
Perhaps if Labor’s cap-and-trade scheme had had a meaningful target; if it hadn’t featured generous exemptions for polluters; and if it had been in place from the 1980s, when the danger from climate change was already well established, then it might have formed the core of a workable strategy.
Today, though, there’s no way attempts to deal with climate change by simply tweaking the market can work. Apart from everything else, time has simply run out.
There’s no alternative now to a strategy based around state regulation and planned public investment. Indeed, there’s a strong case for restoring broad public ownership of the energy generating sector, as was used effectively in Australia throughout the second half of last century.
Further, why can’t Australian governments support and promote the Danish and German model in which communities get together to fund, build and run renewable energy?
That’s something of what governments need to do. But how can we make them do it?
The climate movement needs to put blunt, clear demands on politicians, but we can’t trust them to do the right thing. Before major-party politicians listen to reason, they’ll mostly listen to their donors.
And if lobbying Labor parliamentarians couldn’t move them to effective action, what are the odds with the Coalition?
That’s why the climate movement needs to look beyond a strategy based on lobbying the powerful. We need a model of independent grass-roots action, aimed at involving, educating and mobilising the largest possible numbers of people – whether the politicians like it or not. That creates critical-minded electors who ask questions and vote on the issues.
For changing the mind of a politician, there’s nothing like the threat of being driven out of office.
(1) Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows. Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 2008 366 no. 1882 3863-3882.
(2) Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows. Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 2011 369, 20-44.
CLEAN, the Climate Emergency Action Network of SA, calls for the following:
- Phase out coal use, the worst source of carbon pollution.
- End subsidies to fossil fuel corporations. Use the billions freed up to fund renewable energy and associated infrastructure.
- No to unconventional fossil fuel development. Lock the gate on coal seam gas and shale oil and gas.
- 100% renewable grid energy within a decade. Solar thermal for Port Augusta!
CLEAN SA is a grassroots climate action group, linked nationally with the Community Climate Network.
Find us on facebook: Climate Emergency Action Network of South Australia, or phone 0403 679 742.
A printable PDF version of the above leaflet is available for download.