The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) which covers many of the researchers and academics who work in science, economic modelling and related fields, has called upon the Federal Labor Government and opposition parties to abandon the proposed Emissions Trading System, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) legislation and instead develop a national pollution reduction strategy that does not primarily rely on market mechanisms.
The opposition parties rejected the Government's CPRS legislation in the Senate, however Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has said the legislation will be resubmitted in February 2010 for re-consideration. The new leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, has publicly opposed this legislation "a giant new tax on everything" and has said his party would deliver similar emission reductions of between 5 and 25 per cent by 2020 based on 2000 levels, but without explaining how.
The NTEU has called for ambitious emission reduction targets of a minimum 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2020 as a step towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions. These targets are more in tune with what scientists are calling for to avoid climate tipping points and dangerous climate change.
The NTEU climate change policy puts the union at odds with the Rudd Labor Government, Liberal Opposition and the ACTU. The ACTU has been fully supporting the Federal Labor Government Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation.
"The settlement between the Rudd Government and the opposition has sadly been driven by business self-interest in many areas, however the basic architecture to drive carbon abatement remains intact," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow in a media release on 25 November.
Along with proposals for a planned transition from coal-fired generators to renewable energy sources, the union proposes re-skilling and alternative employment for affected workers, as well as an urgent public investment program in public transport, renewable energy and the sustainable retrofitting of the nation's housing stock.
The union's NSW secretary, Genevieve Kelly, told the Australian newspaper "Rather than get bogged down with a costly emissions trading scheme that rewards big polluters and will have a limited impact on emissions, the Rudd government needs to immediately invest in renewable energy, public transport and a transition from coal-fired power generation," Ms Kelly said.
The Rudd Government currently promises cuts of 5 to 25% on 2000 levels. At the best a 25% cut only equates to a 10.8% cut on 1990 levels. But they fudge these figures further by including land use and forestry targets and financing the reduction in deforestation in third world countries to offset emissions. This will allow Australia's emissions to actually increase until 2030.
"This policy may place the NTEU at odds with the Rudd government and some elements of the union movement; however, we have an obligation to respond to the deeply held concerns of our members who overwhelmingly want action on this issue," Ms Kelly was reported as saying.
The union is also attempting to include environmental claims in workplace agreements. The union is a member of Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability Association, and is negotiating with universities and TAFE institutes to reducing emissions as part of workplace agreements.
NTEU climate change policy
as published in Advocate, Vol 16 No 3, November 2009
The 2009 NTEU National Council adopted a policy on climate change that calls on the Labor Government and opposition parties to support:
1. Abandonment of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) legislation and development of a national pollution reduction strategy that does not primarily rely on market mechanisms.
2. A target of a minimum 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2020 as a step towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
3. A planned transition from coal-fired generators to renewable energy sources, including re-skilling and good quality alternative employment for affected workers.
4. An urgent public investment program in public transport, renewable energy and the sustainable retrofitting of the nation's housing stock.
5. Legislation that gives effect to the Just Transition recommendations endorsed by the ACTU and the United Nations Environment Program and ensures the social costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation are not borne disproportionately by households.
6. Development of a national green employment strategy that meets international best practice standards on decent work and measurably reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
7. Development of a national strategy that identifies unsustainable industry and consumer demand levels, and addresses their employment implications.
8. Amendment of the Fair Work Act in line with ALP 2007 policy to facilitate bargaining on environmental claims by industrial parties.
National Council also agreed that NTEU should hold a conference on climate change in 2010, focusing on the climate change policy agenda post-Copenhagen and its relevance for NTEU members and the union movement in general.
* NTEU - Advocate, Vol 16 No 3, November 2009, pp27 (PDF)
* The Australian, Dec 7, 2009, Union revolts over ETS
* ACTU media release, Nov 25, 2009 - CPRS must now be passed to create jobs and a stronger economy
Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.