The major parties have sidelined action on climate this election, delaying any policy on setting a carbon price and only taking small steps to encourage conversion to renewable energy or carbon emissions reduction. The Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Wilderness Society have all heavily criticised both Government and Coalition parties while endorsing the supportive climate and environmental policies of the Greens.
While Prime Minister Julia Gillard 'believes' in anthropogenic climate change, her government's main climate policy is a proposed 150 person citizen assembly to build a community consensus on climate action and continuing renewable energy programs already started. The Government continues to reiterate that the introduction of an emissions trading scheme will not be reassessed until the end of 2012. Climate activists have criticised Julia Gillard over current ALP climate change policy.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott is renowned for his sceptical views on whether climate change is actually happening and whether human action has played a major contribution, but has committed the Coalition parties to a "direct action" policy to reduce carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020. The Coalition's policies have also been strongly criticised by scientists and climate activists as grossly insufficient.
What both parties don't tell you is that Australian emissions are forecast to actually increase - 19 per cent under Labor and 8 per cent under the Liberals. The increase will be compensated for by carbon offset programs such as reduced tropical rainforest destruction in the REDD program, or carbon soil sequestration through improved agricultural practices. Through these carbon accounting practices the major parties total up a 5 per cent emissions reduction. But there are difficulties in policing offset mechanisms to ensure the carbon remains sequestered.
The Australian Greens are the only major political party taking climate change as a serious electoral issue committing to a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and increased funding for renewable energy. The Greens are seeing their support rise according to opinion polls to 14 per cent as a result with the strong likelihood they will hold the balance of power in the new Senate.
Climate Institute CEO John Connor said "Our analysis puts the ALP ahead of the Coalition on policy but behind on pollution reduction. Both trail the Greens who are the only party with a credible plan on pollution and climate change," he said, "What we have witnessed over these past five weeks is a Government frozen with fear in response to the Coalition's irresponsible and misleading scare campaign on power prices."
"The ALP has suffered a severe dose of power price paranoia, misreading the mood of Australians who don't see pollution and climate change purely as a cost issue but as bolted onto leadership and the need to shift Australia's economy to a low pollution footing." said John Connor in a media release.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has also released it's final environmental scorecard rating the parties: the Coalition on 22 out of 100, Labor on 50 and the Greens on 90.
The scores of all three parties increased as new policies were released: the Coalition matched Labor's and the Greens' commitment to outlaw imports of timber that cannot be verified as having been legally sourced; Labor for announcements on carbon farming and green corridors, Sustainability Impact Assessments for Cabinet submissions, improving planning and transport for more sustainable cities and helping councils and communities cut energy consumption; and the Greens' for a plan for $130 million to be spent over the next five years to protect wildlife under threat in northern Australia.
ACF Executive Director Don Henry said "ACF urges all Australians to be well informed about the full range of the parties' climate and environmental policies,"
Similarly the Wilderness Society has declared both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott 'missing in action' in their environmental scorecard. "The Prime Minister's policy launch today was dismal for anyone expecting national leadership on environmental issues, including climate change. This follows the Opposition Leader's equally abysmal showing on the environment at the Coalition's launch last week", said Mr Anthony Esposito, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.
You can also check out the Australian Youth Climate Coalition Climate Elephant Crusade which has attempted to focus attention on the issue that the major parties continue to ignore.
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.