When I attended a LEAN (Labor Environment Action Network) conference in September 2019, the concern was to make environment action part of Labor’s DNA and to cast climate action in terms of a positive vision for the future. However, people were tired. Labor had lost the unloseable election to
Scott Morrison Scotty from Marketing, with nothing more than slogans and tax cuts to offer, plus scare campaigns boosted by Clive Palmer’s multi-million advertising blitz, a smear campaign directed at Opposition leader Bill Shorten, and a totally misconceived anti coal-mining intervention by former Greens leader Bob Brown.
Yes, there is more to say, and mistakes were made by Labor, but understandably many were tired and discouraged. Still, some were working on strategies inspired by the Green New Deal, in short a regeneration of the fossil fuel economy with a vision of planet-friendly, sustainable restoration and growth. Some were talking about the possibilities of hydrogen.
Post-bushfires, post-COVID, and prior to the ALP Party Conference and a possible election, LEAN has now come up with a simple and I think compelling story, to be found Climate action is core Labor business and Rebuilding Australia on the interwebs.
- Climate change threatens our way of life. It is impacting our weather, our environment and our economy. These escalating impacts will be felt unevenly by Australians. It can be hard to contemplate this challenge when the world is experiencing the upheaval of a global pandemic and so many Australians are exposed and feeling uncertain.
The good news is that acting to arrest climate change will create unprecedented economic opportunity for Australia. In a world shifting toward cleaner sources of power, we could be a Renewable Energy Superpower. We have the best renewable energy resources on the planet. Our wind and sun and natural resources could underpin the creation of world leading new industries and manufacturing – including innovations like clean aluminium and steel. Read more about how we can become a Renewable Energy Superpower here.
Climate action can be the bedrock of a more equal, prosperous and just Australia, our key competitive advantage in the global economy.
But only Labor can deliver this vision. It requires the leadership of a smart, compassionate and active government. Public investment will be essential, as will fine-grained regional planning. It will require real investment in retraining and skills delivery, public ownership of key sections of the economy and genuine cooperation between government, business, unions and communities. It will require putting the national interest ahead of the market’s. And an active trustworthy government to guarantees communities they will be protected through this economic change.
Australia’s first task is to join the community of nations, now more than 100, which target net zero emissions by 2050. The immanent death of coal-fired power is becoming increasingly obvious.
Labor could scarcely do worse in Queensland and Western Australia than happened in 2019. Antony Green observed that of the 46 seats in those two states, the Coalition hold 34.
The startling fact is that of the remaining 105 seats in the country, Labor won 57 to the Coalition’s 43.
Making climate central to the campaign with a vision for rebuilding Australia could focus voters minds on a clear point of product differentiation.
There is nothing to scare the horses here. Labor is simply amplifying what is already happening as NSW [Liberal government] tips $70m into Hunter hydrogen hub as coal closures loom. By contrast Morrison government threatens to use Snowy Hydro to build gas generator, as it outlines ‘gas-fired recovery’ plan in spite of official advice which indicates there is no need.
Importantly, Labor’s path would then be scalable, as I think it must be in the near-term future. My expectation is that by mid-decade the world will realise that tipping points are tipping and our beds are burning as we realise that 1.5°C will not save the Great Barrier Reef, that sea level rise will continue to intrude on our coastlines and swamp low-lying islands, that wild weather, droughts storms and floods, already creating havoc, will increase.
Then we’ll see the need to cool the planet, draw down emissions (James Hansen thinks 300-320 if we want to save the ice sheets) and institute genuine climate emergency action.
- At the last federal election, the Morrison government claimed 50% renewable energy by 2030 would be ruinous for our economy.
Now, several expert energy analysts estimate that renewable projects already in the pipeline could see 50% renewables occur as early as 2025.
Everyone is working to transition out of coal, but the heavy-handed intervention of the federal government is making things worse.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor warned of “price spikes every night when the sun goes down”.
He could have said, “When the sun comes up the price falls, sometimes to zero or negative levels.”
Then he drew attention to what had happened when two other coal-fired power stations closed down — Victoria’s Hazelwood and South Australia’s Northern (South Australia’s last-remaining coal-fired generator).
He said “wholesale prices skyrocketed by 85 per cent”.
And there he finished, without going on to detail what really mattered. South Australia and Victoria now have the lowest wholesale power in the National Electricity Market — that’s right, the lowest.
Renewables have lowered prices.
- Trying to heavy owners won’t hold back the renewables tide. It’s time to plan, and the blueprint exists
EnergyAustralia had made a deal with the Victorian government to keep Yallourn open longer, but it has become unreliable, and cheap renewable energy means it has struggled to remain viable.