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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Government Direct Action Climate Policy under scrutiny in Senate Estimates

During Senate estimates hearings the Abbott Government and officials of Federal Department of Environment were not able to provide even a rough estimate of how much the Direct Action climate policy would achieve of the Government's stated 5 per cent emissions reduction target on 2000 levels by 2020.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlum directed some tough questions at Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and officers of the Department.

"As a percentage, how much of that 5 per cent target will direct action deliver?" Ludlum asked.

"It is premature to be specific around that" responded Dr Gordon De Brouwer from the Department of the Environment. He waffled on about the scheme and the Emissions Reduction Fund still needing to be designed with adequate safeguards incorporated, "without those key features it is very hard to say what the abatement will be specifically from the features." But Dr De Brouwer was adamant the government would be able to achieve the target.

Ludlum replied "Yeah, I think Minister Hunt has used the word confident quite a bit. If you don't have those numbers, you don't know, you can't tell me what proportion of the 5 per cent. On what basis does the Minister go out everyday proclaiming how confident he is? You haven't even designed the policy yet and it is the middle of 2014."

"Senator, a lot of design work has been done...." replied Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment.

Another question from Ludlum: "I was going to ask if you had comprehensively mapped how you were going to reach that target? But you obviously haven't..."

More waffle from Senator Birmingham saying little and not answering the question to which Seanator Ludlum enjoins "I'd be happy with a rough guess. You are not even able to provide us with that!"

It is clear the Government's Direct Action Policy has not been modelled, is still in the formative stages even though we are some 9 months since the election with the Government asking the Senate to repeal the existing carbon pricing legislation.

One million extra solar roof systems policy ditched

The Government took a policy of funding rebates for an additional 1 million solar PV intallations to last years election. Instead in the budget we saw the program dropped on mass with just a small contribution of $2.1million for 7 solar town projects.

"The Coalition will promote the use of solar energy by Australian families and households. It will ensure at least one million additional solar homes or community centres by 2020." (Greg Hunt, December 2011)

"Why was the one million roofs commitment scrapped? There were plenty of comments on the record before the election that you would be pursuing the million rooftops scheme—why was it scrapped?" asked Senator Ludlum.

Senator Birmingham responded, "Ultimately, in the budget we have reached a landing point on this, that we still want to make some investment in innovative solar programs, and that is why the Solar Towns program that we were just exploring proceeds with its $2.1 million commitment."

And with that the Government dismisses a major policy commitment assisting a further 1 million homes and famillies gaining solar power to reduce carbon emissions and save on energy bills.

Is Direct Action Policy sufficient to meet international obligations not to exceed 2 degrees warming

A further question from Senator Ludlum asked if the Government's Direct Action policy is sufficient to decarbonise the economy and avoid exceeding the 2 degree global temperature threshold consistent with Australia's international obligations and fair share of emissions reduction.

Senator Scott Ludlum: There is a lot of stuff now in the climate science literature that suggests that we've blown the possibility of staying within the 2 degree threshhold, that arguable definition of what takes us into dangerous climate change and out the other side into catastrophic climate change. Does everybody at the table here really seriously believe that the Government's policy is going to be sufficient to decarbonise the economy or are we really just wasting our time?

Senator Simon Birmingham: Are you asking our personal opinions?

Senator Scott Ludlum: I am asking you a policy question. Do we have the policies in place under this government to decarbonise the economy? Probably better directed at Senator Birmingham, but I don't mind who takes it. The Prime Minister assures us he believes that climate change is real. Are the measures this government has outlined sufficient to decarbonise the economy as rapidly as required? or Not?

Senator Simon Birmingham: Well, Senator, the measures we are outlining were to meet the abatement challenge that the government committed to in a bipartisan sense when it was set previously. That is the policy profile and planning we are working towards.

Senator Scott Ludlum: Is it going to keep us under 2 degrees as far as Australia's commitment to the global effort...

Senator Simon Birmingham: Senator Ludlum, you well know that is going to be determined by what happens globally

Senator Scott Ludlum: We are part of planet Earth...

Senator Simon Birmingham: Well, ummm, Will our policy keep us under 2 degrees? Well, Senator, that is a foolish question.

Senator Scott Ludlum: No, You cut me off halfway through the question - ...consistent with our international obligations and the carbon intensity of our economy

Senator Simon Birmingham: Consistent with our unconditional commitment to reduce our emissions by 5 per cent on 2000 levels, we have the policies to do so.

The Climate Change Authority released it's report in March which stated that conditions had been met for increasng Australia's emissions reduction target to 19 per cent. The Government is sticking with the unconditional 5 per cent target that Prime Minister Rudd committed us to at Copenhagen in 2009, even though substantial action to reduce emissions are being undertaken by the USA, China, Europe and most other economies.

See my Budget summary on Climate science and clean energy suffer under first Abbott budget

Watch the Senate Estimates hearings on Direct Action Policy below:

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