Policy on the big issues – global warming
Too many corporations have become rent seekers with little serious commitment to investing in R&D, product and service innovation …… many of these corporations have been at the heart of deflecting attention at the political level from what most Australians believe is a must do reform in the third wave – urgent attention to decarbonizing our economy.
Terry Moran AC
To increase the transparency, accountability and policy integrity of Australia’s response to global warming.
The current problems
The current crisis in trust for MPs and governments is due in large part to the failure of successive governments to heed the scientific evidence that has for decades indicated an urgent need to substantially reduce greenhouse emissions.
A lack of leadership, timidity in the face of the enormous transformation needed to decarbonize the economy and the revenue potential of Australia’s massive remaining reserves of fossil fuels are factors in the inaction.
Also at play are the vested interests of the mining and big energy using sector that has heavily invested in undermining the evidence and public opinion. It also uses its considerable wealth to influence political parties. In 2017-18 fossil fuel companies donated a total of $1.3m to the Labor, Liberal and National parties.
The mining lobby spent almost $5m on political campaigning in 2016/17 alone. The sector has run a concerted campaign to undermine scientific evidence using fake consultants and cherry-picked data, delaying real action for decades.
Numerous ministers and staff have stepped into well-paid lobbying roles in the fossil fuel sector soon after leaving office – John Anderson, Mark Vaile, Martin Ferguson, Craig Emerson, Greg Combet, and Helen Coonan. These people are very well connected, have insider knowledge from their former roles, are able to ‘open doors’ and often remain involved and influential in their respective political parties.
As global warming accelerates with more frequent and more extreme events – bushfires, droughts and heatwaves – the public is demanding more action and the business sector more policy certainty. It has become evident that the cost to the country of inaction is much higher than that required to cut emissions.
Government claims to be on track to meet 26-28% cuts in emissions below 2005 levels yet the most recently published data shows a rise in greenhouse emissions for 4 years in a row and levels in 2030 likely to be higher than today. The Government’s $2b extension of the Climate Solutions Fund has been criticised for not tackling major sources of emissions.
The reforms that are needed
- An evidence-based, whole of environment and whole of government approach to enforcing regulation and creating environmental improvement.
- A transparent mechanism such as a carbon tax to drive down emissions
- A larger role for governments in finding solutions to decarbonizing Australia’s economy, drawing on the experience of civil society, business and the public.
- Caps on donations to political parties and candidates from individuals and organisations, caps on election campaign spending, real time disclosure of donations and uniformity of the political donation regime across Australia
- Extension of the cooling off period to 3-5 years for retiring members of parliament, including ministers, before which they can take up private sectors positions related to their parliamentary responsibilities and penalties for breaches.
Environmental issues are managed in Australia in a piecemeal fashion with lack of jurisdictional clarity, Federal environment laws that are watered down or bypassed. Governments have fostered divisive debate about city vs. country, jobs and growth vs. the natural environment.
Examples of poor management include the recent logging outside declared logging areas in Victoria in part caused by inadequate mapping, and lack of ongoing oversight and management. We have very sketchy knowledge of the species existing in Australia and their levels of decline.
The outright corruption in water theft in the Murray Darling basin is widely known but not acted upon until the matter became a media story.
There are opportunities to strengthen the effectiveness of holistic environmental monitoring and reporting and to ensure a prescribed regularity and transparency to this reporting. There are further opportunities to ensure better communication and network action between civil society and government agencies in monitoring and reporting effects of environmental decline and bringing it to public attention