Rudd gambles with the planet

May 8, 2009

The Socialist Alliance condemns and totally rejects the Rudd government's modified proposal for a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) announced on May 4.

It is fatally flawed. The retention of the unconditional 5% reduction target, the new $10 cap on carbon pricing, and more free trading permits for big polluters all mean that the CPRS Mark 2 is more unacceptable than ever.

While Rudd's revised conditional 25% reduction target for the scheme simply raises the hypothetical target that Australia may take to Copenhagen in December, it is still totally dependent on an international agreement. And the plan means the target can be met by simply buying carbon credits from overseas.

If adopted globally, a 25% reduction target by 2020 would still be a death sentence for many of our World Heritage areas including the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu, and our rainforests.

A target of 25%, even if mandatory, is just too low to stop the Arctic ice from melting or stop Pacific island nations being swallowed by rising sea levels.

The Greens know all of this, but have reduced their own target from 40% to get Labor to negotiate with them instead of the Liberals. This highly questionable gambit seems to have failed so far. Rudd still won't deal them into the game.

The new proposal gives another $2.2 billion in free permits to Australia's biggest polluters. This is a real windfall for Australia's dirtiest industries. Some of the worst, such as the aluminium producers — already promised 90% free permits — are now set to get even more rights to pollute.

But the big polluters are still not satisfied. Even after $7.4 billion in concessions to its members, the Minerals Council still wants more concessions and more delays.

Just how much is enough for them? Clearly the fossil fuel-based companies have yet to realise that "business as usual" is no longer acceptable. The vast majority of Australians demand strong and decisive action from their politicians.

It will take a massive plan of conversion to sustainable energy to meet the climate emergency. Australia must have
another "Snowy Mountains scheme" of government investment in renewable energy and job creation. It's something even more vital than ever because of the recession.

In a failed attempt to give life to his faltering CPRS, Rudd offered token concessions to some peak environment groups. This snared the support of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund and the Climate Institute, together with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Council of Social Service.

These organisations have let down the planet and its people with their opportunist politics. It has revealed how out of touch they are with most of the climate movement.

This surrender to "political realism" has been met with outrage by a broad cross-section of the environment movement.

It prompted a total rejection of the CPRS Mark 2 by 66 climate action groups and several peak environment and community organisations — Get Up, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and the NSW, SA, Qld, ACT and WA Conservation Councils. The "Gang of Three" has been isolated.

Australians want and expect firm action to combat climate change. They know that strong action to save our planet will require large social, economic and political changes and even some pain, but they're saying "we have to make a start now, tomorrow may be too late".

They voted in 2007 to end 12 years of climate inaction, but again they have been betrayed by the government they elected.

It's time that Rudd and climate change minister Penny Wong recognised that creating sustainable jobs for everyone and fighting climate change can be done together. This week, they utterly failed the leadership test on global warming. They have succumbed to the greenhouse mafia.

[David White is the national environment coordinator of the Socialist Alliance.]

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