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Our lost history of climate change 146.22 KB

The story of how much progress was achieved in Australia on climate change policy in the 1980s has been lost. Exactly twenty years ago, in 1989, federal cabinet first considered reducing greenhouse emissions by 20 per cent by 2005, and during the 1990 election campaign, they agreed, with some provisos, to a similar plan. At the same time, the Liberal Party was developing parallel policies, although Chris Puplick, the Liberal shadow environment minister at the time, argues that the Liberal Party was ahead of Labor on climate change, and on many other environment issues, at the 1990 election.

The current political debate in Canberra assumes that the issue has only been discovered by politicians over the past few years. Yet climate change was clearly on the public policy agenda twenty years ago. The cabinet submission that the environment minister, Graham Richardson, introduced in 1989 was based on ten years of gradually developing understanding both internationally and in Australia among scientists, environmental activists and policy makers.

This brief paper examines the history of climate change policy in Australia, and in particular, how much progress took place in the late 1980s to move Australia towards a carbon-constrained economy. 

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