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Christine Milne blogs about Rudd's climate cuts

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Christine Milne 16 Jul 2013

Dear friends,

Kevin Rudd's announcement that Labor wants to scrap the fixed price on pollution one year early is a great disappointment. It's a purely political move - but it's a political move with serious consequences.

If he passed his changes into law, they would make it much cheaper for big companies to pollute. He's already announced that he will cut funding from programs that build clean energy and protect our environment. This will stall progress on tackling global warming and hurt communities for no good reason.

There's much more to his announcement than meets the eye, so I wanted to write to you to explain my thinking personally.

Do you remember how you felt when you found out that our Parliament had, at last, taken action on global warming?

I remember that day with crystal clarity. That profound sense of relief that Australia had moved at last, and the great responsibility all Greens felt to use what we achieved together as a foundation for more - neither of those emotions has left me since.

But key parts of the Clean Energy Act and the package we set up to tackle global warming have been undermined by the very party that we negotiated it with.

Here are the three main problems with Rudd's backflip:

  • Price. If we move to end the fixed price on pollution too early, the price will crash to the European price which is as low as $6 - far too low to drive pollution cuts or clean energy growth. Europe is moving to fix major issues in their emissions trading scheme, but they need time. It is not in Australia's interest to bring forward our trading link with Europe. Rather we should wait until 2015 as agreed.
  • Funding. The fixed price on pollution is raising revenue to fund vital programs that invest in clean energy and protect our environment. To keep these important programs going, we need the price on pollution. Now, Labor plans to cut $162 million from the Clean Technology Program that helps businesses make changes like going solar, $213 million from the Biodiversity Fund we set up to help Australians protect and restore our environment, and sack 800 public servants, mostly in Canberra. Added to the cuts they made in the May budget, that's more than $1 billion cut from programs that are making a real difference. You don't protect the environment by cutting environment programs!
  • Signal. This move is the Prime Minister telling Australians that global warming is a political football again, and removes the urgency for action here. It also creates uncertainty in the mind of clean energy investors who want to build here in Australia. Overseas, China is looking to Australia's Clean Energy Act to design emissions trading schemes for provinces that are home to more than 250 million people. The International Energy Agency calls our Act 'template' legislation. Rudd's action today tells the world that Australia will hinder our own scheme on the slightest political whim.

So his decision to cave in to Abbott's political campaign against climate action could have real consequences. But his decision is not law.

The Clean Energy Act is law. Rudd can't end the fixed price without passing legislation through the Parliament. He could work with Tony Abbott to water it down even further - or he can come to us.

That means that keeping the Greens in a strong position in Parliament is more important than ever. If we stay strong in the House and Senate, we can vote to strengthen climate action, not weaken it.

That's our first and most important tool: our ability to stop terrible populist decisions from becoming law, and to improve good outcomes to make them great. I hope you'll think about supporting us in the election campaign so we can stay strong after the election, whenever it may be.

I will note that cuts to programs supporting coal-fired power stations and the fantasy technology of ‘clean coal' - which the Greens have always opposed, including in our negotiations on the Clean Energy Act - are welcome. Labor should never have dedicated billions of dollars to them in the first place. Better late than never.

I want to end on an exciting note. I spent yesterday morning at Power Shift, a summit of 1500 young people working to solve the climate crisis. They are passionate, they are positive, and they are determined to build a movement that drives the change we need.

So are we Greens.

Don't give up. We have all the tools and technologies we need to build a 100% renewable energy Australia that's given up on dirty coal power. We have a powerful movement working for all these aims.

And with your support, we can elect Greens to a strong position in the next Parliament to defend all that we've built and go much, much further still.

With hope,

Christine

PS Our plans to cut pollution and encourage investment in clean energy are central to our election platform, which Adam Bandt and I launched on Sunday. Read our platform, Standing Up For What Matters, for more.

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You can watch Christine and Cate Faehrmann address these changes in Sydney here:

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