Page 2556 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 2 July 2008

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challenges. These challenges include helping the developing world to modernise while embracing low emissions and progressively shifting our economy from high to low emissions.

My federal colleague Greg Hunt said at a function in Canberra last week:

Climate change will be one of the greatest challenges of our time. It represents an important economic shift, and will require a portfolio of responses.

The challenge goes beyond an economic shift: it will require a fundamental shift in the mindset of every Australian as each of us makes the adjustment to a carbon constrained world.

For all its talk, Stanhope Labor has done little in the past seven years to encourage that fundamental shift towards life in a carbon-constrained world. After abandoning the previous government’s greenhouse strategy on the ground that it was too expensive and, leaving a policy vacuum for a number of years, Jon Stanhope eventually introduced a new climate change strategy midway through last year. Its only target was a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 60 per cent of 2000 levels by 2050.

Rather than introduce the portfolio of responses suggested by Greg Hunt, Jon Stanhope cobbled together a mishmash of underwhelming initiatives with no strong policy and a dubious commitment to spending. He called his strategy weathering the change. That is probably the most catchy thing about it. Apart from the catchy title, it received a lukewarm response from key stakeholders. If that were not bad enough, Jon Stanhope’s federal colleagues have proved themselves to be even longer on rhetoric and shorter on effective action.

After coming to power late last year, Messrs Rudd and Garrett and Senator Wong turned up at the Bali climate conference waving the newly signed commitment to Kyoto, the ink barely dry. As an aside, I think it was the right thing for Australia to do, and it should have been done earlier. The Howard government had a good record on climate change. This is borne out by recent figures that show that Australia is one of the few countries to meet its Kyoto obligations. But while the previous government scored goals, it lost the war of ideas because it could never really tell the story of its success. I think it undermined its own environmental credentials by holding out against signing Kyoto.

Signing Kyoto was the high point for the Rudd government. Since then there have been policy stumbles, the rebadging of coalition policies, the distancing from Ross Garnaut and the meltdown over emissions trading. The nadir of climate change policy came on budget night, when Peter Garrett announced the effective smashing of the domestic photovoltaic industry. The arbitrary announcement of a means test on the solar homes rebate scheme has brought small businesses across Australia to their knees and made policies such as those we are going to be debate later in the day in relation to feed-in tariffs less effective.

If we want to address climate change, we need more coherent and predictable leadership than we have seen from either Rudd or Stanhope Labor. We need a clear, strong and effective policy. Today is about recalibrating climate change policy in the ACT.

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