Shredding the fig leaf

Direct Action was always a fig leaf for a government pretending to have a climate policy. Now the climate change denialists in Abbott’s cabinet have taken the opportunity to shred the fig leaf to the complete embarrassment of Greg Hunt.

Giles Parkinson thinks the 2014 budget is Abbott settling old scores, and dumping clean energy in favour of the asphalt economy.

With proposals to repeal the carbon price, dismantle the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the dilution of the Renewable Energy Target already in train, these budget measures – which include the closure of ARENA, the dumping of the million solar roofs program (both contrary to election promises) and the research funding cuts at the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and elsewhere – mean that the obliteration of the Clean Energy Future package will be complete, if it can get past the Senate.

Dumping ARENA is particularly stupid, as the fund was leveraging private investment at the rate of $2.50 to one and doing much to support the off-grid activities of the mining industry.

ARENA will maintain funds of $1 billion for around 190 projects – mostly R&D – that have already been contracted since its creation in 2012, but it will have a measly budget of just $15 million over each of the next two years for new projects.

Some 150 of its 180 projects already allocated are in support of research and development, a core competency not valued by the Government.

The Emissions Reduction Fund ($2.55 billion) has been spread over 10 years, rather than four. Tristan Edis explains that $2.55 billion will be allocated over the next four years, but the scheme only pays on completion. However, this does call into question the efficacy of the scheme.

Clive Palmer wants to divert the funds to pensions and is prepared to vote it down.

The million solar roofs scheme was a featured election promise.

The million solar roofs program, once a $1 billion centrepiece of Direct Action to bring solar to lower-income earners and renters, has sunk without trace — replaced by a derisory $2.1 million program to install solar on RSLs and bowling clubs in seven electorates, many of them marginal (yes, really).

But not to worry we still have “$525 million to pay up to 15,000 under-25s to pick up litter at below-award wages under the guise of the Green Army”.

Parkinson further reports

the abrupt closure of the Energy Efficiency Opportunities, as well as rejecting calls for the revival of Low Carbon Australia, which also supported investments in energy efficiency. It has also brought an end to support for ethanol and algae fuel programs.

The Energy Efficiency Opportunities program, which was to cost $20 million to run over the next five years, had helped deliver more than $1 billion a year in savings since 2006.

Alan Pears at The Conversation has more. He says the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which has already mobilised $2.5 billion of mostly private funding for low-emission energy and agriculture projects would make a profit for the government if allowed to continue. Like ARENA the CEFC will continue trading until stopped by legislation.

Pears says that leaves the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme as “the last major remaining piece of federal government policy that supports ongoing investment.” It has already led to $20 billion worth of investment, but is under review with climate sceptic Dick Warburton at the helm.

There’s more at The Guardian and at Planet Oz. There Graham Readfearn tells of the axing of a small $1.3 million program, which has been supporting more than a 150 local and state-based conservation groups across the country since 1973. Such is the depth and thoroughness of the attack on the environment.

Meanwhile global renewable energy jobs surged to almost 6.5 million in 2013. In Germany, where the government strategy was to take first mover advantage, renewable energy production reached 74% the other day.

We are striving to be last.