The recent figures on CO2 emissions are sobering. Despite the fact that the world has suffered a terrible recession, emissions are still rising. In essence, all the efforts to tackle climate change have simply slowed the rise a little rather than reverse it. The problem is that the solutions to climate change put forward at international conferences like Copenhagen and Cancun dare not deal with the real root cause of climate change — our current economic system.
Australian climate scientists and researchers are subject to a rising level of hate mail, abuse and death threats from climate change deniers. More than 30 researchers told the June 4 Canberra Times “they are receiving a stream of abusive emails threatening violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members”.
Melbourne’s City of Yarra awarded the volunteer-run climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions its 2011 sustainability award for community action on June 2. BZE’s Melbourne group office is based in the Yarra council area. The council said: “Beyond Zero Emissions Inc. (BZE) is an independent, not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation leading a ‘can do’ campaign for climate solutions grounded in commercially available technologies and peer-reviewed research.
About 5000 people walked across Commonwealth Bridge and rallied in front of Parliament House on June 5, calling for real action on climate change now. Speakers included former Liberals Leader John Hewson, Richard Dennis from the Australia Institute, 2010 Greens Senate candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds and Bishop Pat Power. Hewson said we needed to respond to climate change with a greater sense of urgency and in a way that recognised the magnitude of the problem.
Blind Carbon Copy, June 4 — World Environment Day on June 5 was the Say Yes Australia rally called by an alliance of unions and NGOs like GetUp. A large number of environmentalists, including the Greens party, rightly rejected the last attempt of the government to set a carbon price, the “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme”. It was shonky, riddled with loopholes big enough for a diesel-spewing truck to drive through.
A big ad campaign — “Australia says yes” — began this month to support the federal government’s proposed carbon tax. The campaign has been organised by a coalition of peak environment and social justice organisations including GetUp!, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One of the people featured in the advertisements is actor Cate Blanchett. Her presence attracted the ire of conservative politicians and commentators as soon as the commercials aired.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Codrington wind farm in Victoria’s southwest, the state’s first. On May 18, planning minister Matthew Guy announced approval for the latest, the three-turbine Chepstowe wind farm near Ballarat. But Victoria’s wind industry is threatened by the policies of the state’s new Liberal government. The government came to power with promises to ensure no-go zones for wind farms in the Macedon ranges, Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, and the Great Ocean Road. These are some of the best areas in the state for wind farms.
The proposal for a carbon tax raises the issues of tax equity and political strategy. Yet despite their inter-relatedness, we need to disentangle these issues to focus on the original question. As a mean of addressing climate change, the carbon tax proposal comes in the context of difficult global negotiations, where almost any proposal has been seen as a breakthrough, and where (after the last financial derivatives bubble) there is justified suspicion of emissions trading schemes.
“EPA: Extreme Pollution A-OK” read a banner held up by protesters outside Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as it announced on May 20 a partial approval for the HRL Dual Gas project, which will use brown coal for electricity generation. With a record 4000 submissions to the EPA opposing the project, the Stop HRL campaign group reacted with a spot protest outside the EPA during the announcement and a further protest of over 300 outside state parliament on May 24.
The worst thing about the Labor government’s proposed carbon price scheme is that it’s a diversion from real action on climate change. Few of its supporters say it will deliver significant renewable energy or emissions cuts any more — only that it will “start the process” and complement other measures. See also: Green illusions and the carbon tax Critical Decade report understates climate threat