Some environmentalists view the rejection of the Australian Labor government’s emissions trading plan as a defeat for green politics. Socialists disagree.
Statement on the Senate rejection of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
The Socialist Alliance welcomes the Senate’s rejection of the Rudd Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
We commend the Greens Senators for their principled opposition, which reflects the viewpoint of the grassroots climate action movement, as well as their own goal of achieving a safe and sustainable climate.
Labor’s CPRS has never been “a good starting point to achieving real targets for reduced greenhouse emissions” as claimed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Neither is the CPRS the best way to create “a million clean energy jobs in six key industry sectors over the next two decades”.
It is simply a dangerous and immensely complex proposal: with its paltry
5% reduction target it would actually allow/ /carbon pollution to increase, would pay $16.4 billion in compensation to the big polluters, allow an increase in coal production and exports, and transfer to poor developing countries the task of offsetting Australian greenhouse gas emissions.
The Coalition’s carbon policy, which has yet to be finalised, but which was foreshadowed only two days before the Senate vote, would be even more generous to corporate carbon polluters and power generators.
The ACTU’s support for Labor’s CPRS and its claim that rejection puts green jobs at risk (because “business can’t invest until they have certainty, and jobs can’t flourish until they do”) confirms the myopia of policymaking by Australia’s peak union body.
The ACTU, and its partners in the Southern Cross Climate Coalition (the Climate Institute, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Social Services) that have supported the CPRS, don’t seem to understand that the transition to climate safety cannot be trusted to market forces. The market will only invest in climate-friendly technologies when there’s a profit to be made, not because it has to be done.
This stance ignores the facts of climate science. To reduce global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to 350 parts per million at most—a target that the ACF itself now accepts as a necessary minimum—carbon emissions will have to fall by at least 5% a year. However, the best results achieved through a market-based approach (by Germany) have been a reduction of 1% a year.
The only way of cutting emissions quick enough to avoid catastrophic climate impacts is through massive publicly financed and controlled investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, the funds sourced from cuts to subsidies to polluters and military expenditure, with the workers in polluting industries retrained on full pay for green jobs.
The Senate rejection of the CPRS also poses big challenges for the grassroots climate action movement. In three months, the CPRS bills can again be presented to the Senate. Another Senate rejection would give Kevin Rudd a basis for a double-dissolution election.
So the pressure is now on the grassroots climate movement to campaign vigorously to educate everyone about the deficiencies of the CPRS, and about the better alternatives. A majority of Australians still see the CPRS as a positive first step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, primarily because they have not been given the facts they need to make an informed judgment.
An equally important job is to equip the union movement with a climate policy that addresses the global warming emergency. The challenge—in individual workplaces, union meetings and conferences, Trades and Labour councils and other union peak bodies—is for the unions to fully accept that the climate crisis will not go away.
The rejection of the CPRS should encourage all of us to accept that the most important way of healing an overheating planet is not any “cap-and-trade” scheme, but to make the mass of working people aware of the issues and determined to play a role in avoiding catastrophe. That working majority will be central to identifying and eliminating waste and pollution in the workplace, closing down the old polluting industries and developing and building new sustainable ones.
It’s now important for the grassroots climate movement to help transform Australia’s unions from a cheer squad for Labor’s parody of a climate approach into a powerful force for progressive policy and campaigning against the biggest threat humanity faces.