2017 Review of Climate Change Policies. Where’s the policy to spur ambition?
Statement by Andrew Petersen, Chief Executive of Sustainable Business Australia, Australia’s peak organisation for businesses engaging in sustainable development and aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Australian Government today released its 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies. Overall, it is another missed opportunity, with little ambition for an enabling framework that emphasises sustainable, responsible and climate-smart development for Australia.
The report crystallises the weaknesses of the existing policy approach as we continue to mark time on climate action in Australia. The final page of the report (page 43), contains a recommendation that Australia get “a long-term climate change strategy”. In essence, one the biggest initiatives to come from the review of policies is to develop another strategy, starting next year and being completed by 2020. SBA will engage with Australia’s policymakers on this climate strategy, just as it has done for the last 27 years.
The key thing business in Australia has been calling out for is a long-term energy and climate policy that ensures certainty and yet here we are, again, being told there will be another strategy due in three years from now. The Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015; the Sustainable Development Goals came into effect in 2016; the Finkel Review was handed down this year and the UN just said at COP23 in Bonn that “current state pledges cover no more than a third of the emission reductions needed” (UNEP). It is beyond belief that Australia doesn’t have all of the information it needs now to deliver a strategy today, for tomorrow.
The review offers no overall and coordinated roadmap to make Australia net carbon neutral by mid-century. The review doesn’t do anything to make Australia a clean renewable energy super-power. There are no incentives for business to accelerate and scale up the innovative technological approaches, approaches like the WBCSD’s Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative. There’s no requirement on business to act on climate by disclosing risk, as urged by APRA. The review doesn’t talk of a policy response to the impact of climate change on national security, health, natural disasters, food or water supply. There’s no mention of the Sustainable Development Goals. There’s little talk of carbon farming and battery storage. There’s no talk of the impact on one of our biggest export industries, tourism, and the Great Barrier Reef gets only a passing mention, which is more than endangered species and land clearing got only a cursory glance. There’s no discussion about supporting industries, regions and people currently involved in fossil fuel extraction transition to a new future. The review states what is already known by governments, business and community alike.
The Government’s response indicates that it sees climate change policy solely through an energy lens. It doesn’t see climate change as the massive threat that it is to Australia’s economy, national security and the well-being of its citizens that most do. The Government needs to recognise the sovereign climate risk and broaden its view and build a policy that is fit for future purpose.
Forward thinking business have been calling for greater ambition, robustness and longer-term thinking, in Australia and internationally. While the overview view is disappointing there are some ‘green shoots’. We welcome the ability of business to purchase verifiable credible internationally recognised credits to acquit carbon liability. Signals that carbon pricing is being seriously considered are welcome as well, particularly as the recent climate negotiations at COP23 saw much support for carbon pricing approaches promoting its use in limiting emissions within different jurisdictions.
In contrast, New Zealand is getting on with the job. The new government there this week announced the Zero Carbon Act, describing it as “a cornerstone of New Zealand’s transition to a low emission, climate resilient future”. It will also establish an independent Climate Change Commission, similar to the one abolished by the current Australian government in 2013.
We would have liked to see action start today, not in 2020. We need climate and energy policy that is integrated into the FY2018/19 budgetary process so that climate risk is finally factored into all of Australia’s major economic decisions.
We encourage the Government to immediately develop a low carbon plan and vision for Australia to enable business to have confidence to scale up and accelerate their enterprise, innovation and investment in Australia’s low carbon economy.
Updated: 19 December 2017