Climate change policy on the shelf

So it finally happened. The Australian government has given up on its climate change legislation. After failing twice to get the bill passed through the Senate, dithering under opposition pressure and then realizing they have a tight budget to deliver, the Climate Pollution Reduction Scheme has gone.

Action on climate change was the core platform that effectively won the last election for the Labour party to put them in office after more than a decade in opposition. Much was promised but all that happened was a photo opportunity for the prime minister in Bali, failed legislation and some tantrums in Copenhagen. Under Australian parliamentary law, two knockbacks on a bill is enough for the government to call an election, a double dissolution. They didn’t, instead they put the bill to one side until 2013 at the earliest.

An election is due, however, so why risk public frustration over broken promises? Because the analysts have figured that public interest, concern, will, call it what you will, has lapsed from the Inconvenient Truth fuelled clamor for policy action so prevalent during the last election campaign. The public will forget or forgive the failure to deliver policy on climate change because the issue is no longer important. At least not sufficiently to affect the result so long as climate change is not an election issue. A double dissolution would have put the issue front and centre, so better to just shelve the legislation.

The real reason the CPRS ended up on the shelf is money. Searching for the A$5 billion needed to fund health care reform and a budget already hit hard by huge incentive spending still in place to cushion the effects of the global financial crisis, the CPRS was simply too expensive. And, as everyone knows, voters vote with a hand firmly on their hip pockets.

Read more on the importance of climate change policy action at Greencollar Think Tank

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