My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 7 May 2019

by ray goodlass

Race to the bottom on climate change

Despite the federal election campaign being characterised by the major parties throwing around ‘cash splashes’ like confetti at a wedding, my attention was drawn to those far-sighted souls who have the sense to see that this is, or should be, a climate change election

In particular I noted the School Strike for Climate Action last Friday, and was particularly pleased to see Wagga schoolies joining in. Also last week seven key lower house independents put out a very strong call for action, largely focussed on a call to stop the Adani coal mine, and just to round out the climate action trifecta Stop Adani Wagga carried out its own piece of local activism last Friday with a mass delivery of letters to Michael McCormack’s office.

All this activism prompted me to have a good hard look at what the different parties are offering, if anything, to combat climate change. To begin with I looked at how the need for action on climate change was resonating with voters. I found that by all indications concern for climate change is indeed a decisive issue in this election.

The ABC’s Vote Compass, a survey tool that records Australians political views, showed that climate was a key concern for voters this year more than ever before. 29% of Vote Compass participants have elected the environment as their chief concern, making it the top reported issue. Three years ago it was only 9 per cent.

The evidence all voters need to see comes from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), which assessed how the parties stack up on their policies. It awarded the Coalition the lowest mark on the scorecard.

Out of a possible score of 100, the Liberal-Nationals received a dismal score of four. The Labor Party was closer to the middle, coming in with 56, while the Greens scored the highest at 99.

“What these results show is that we cover a huge scope when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately though at the moment we are in a race to the bottom,” ACF head of campaigns Paul Sinclair said.

The ACF is an independent, non-partisan national environment organisation, which assessed the major parties by analysing their environmental policies against 50 key tests.

According to the ACF, it is not only the Coalition badly lagging in robust environmental policy. They also said Labor should do more. “They are only halfway there. They scored 59,” Dr Sinclair said.

The party’s commitment to cut carbon and develop the renewable energy sector was viewed favourably, however their uncommitted stance on the Adani coal mine negatively affected their score.

The only party that the ACF said was impressive was, unsurprisingly, the Greens. This election their climate change policies include phasing out coal entirely and establishing a renewable energy export industry.

Of course, we need to look beyond the Coalition, Labor and the Greens. There are several minor parties and independents vying for our votes too.

One Nation’s Pauline Hanson denies that humans are to blame for climate change, claiming the extinction of dinosaurs as proof, supports the Adani coal mine, and has no policies to mitigate climate change.

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party website lists very few policies and is completely silent on climate change, though his strident advocacy for Queensland coal mining indicates rather conclusively that he is in the same denialist mindset as Ms Hanson.

It was though encouraging to see seven high-profile independents including Kerryn Phelps and Julia Banks promise to pursue climate action if re-elected, including explicit opposition to the Adani coalmine; reinvigorating the national Climate Change Authority; and to “developing a roadmap to power Australia to 100% renewable energy, aiming to achieve at least 50% by 2030”. Only 50% is however a real worry and no better than Labor.

Independents For Climate Action Now (ICAN) is a very new party that seeks to pursue policies relating to climate change, such as phasing out fossil fuels, to be replaced with renewable energy, though like the other independents it is very light on as to how it will achieve its goals.

So there you have it. An election in which voters are ranking action to combat climate change very highly, but only one party with the policies to achieve it.