Use climate bill to consolidate support base and move towards effective climate action

By Joe Montero

Excuse the pun, but the matter of government action on climate is warming up. It is already among the greatest concerns of Australia. and it is now dominating Canberra. So it should. There is a lot riding on this.

The Greens have been meeting to agree to a consensus on how to react to the Albanese government’s intended climate bill. It looks like they will support it now that some sought after amendments have ben agreed to and there is a measure of built-in flexibility to ratchet up the response when necessary. It still needs to go further and curbs on government handouts to fossil fuel companies, and the stopping of new projects are still being sought. The question is whether the legislation will assist or hold back progress.

There is now enough agreement to secure an easy passage the legislation will sail through the House of Representatives and the Senate, especially with the likelihood of securing further support from the crossbench.

Despite the reservations of some, this will be an achievement that was not possible till now. If it works to gain support for change and the moment is seized to ensure a path towards the goal, the legislation deserves support.

Meanwhile, the Liberal and National Party coalition have been shoring up their own position around leader Peter Dutton’s position to oppose the bill. Climate policy is one of their greatest weaknesses. The Dutton line ensures that it remains so. It concentrates on admitting the climate problem while ensuring there is nothing to commit the government to action, and the promise to produce a new policy soon is about the wording and does not change this.

Nor does raising the prospect of nuclear power. It is prohibitively costly and unclean, when compared to much cheaper and cleaner alternatives. The nuclear power argument is a diversion and an intention to create the illusion that the coalition is serious about reducing carbon emissions.

Their policy and determination to vote against the legislation is wedge politics, designed to set up a scenario, where it is insisted that climate policy is what is behind the problems faced by the economy and the rising cost of living. It is about political manipulation for questionable ends.

The Liberal and National parties have misread the public mood. This will be to their cost.

Before rejoicing too much, the passage of legislation is ultimately just words on paper. This might carry legitimacy and make it look like the government is in action, but it is the implementation that’s decisive. Time will tell how far the Albanese government will go or whether another government will reverse the direction.

The only protection is vigilance and the intention of a mobilised public to make sure that the trajectory is towards timely and sufficient action. Australia needs to see more of climate groups out there raising the issues, school students hitting the streets with their concerns, the concerned within the political parties raising their voices, and everyone taking an interest. Those seeking to stop the activities of a destructive mining industry and the damage to the land caused by fracking for gas must continue their efforts, along with those working to build alternative energy sources and other clean new technologies, products, and practices.

It is the consolidation of public opinion and the extent that society is prepared to act that forces the politicians and power brokers to listen. The threat of catastrophic climate change is too real to consider anything less.

Australia is making some important progress. But here is still a long way to go and little time to get there.

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