Managing the unavoidable while avoiding the unmanageable: climate policy tests for the 2013 federal election

Federal government Climate change Elections Power resources Australia


Every Federal election, The Climate Institute undertakes a qualitative assessment of the climate change policy position of political parties and independents represented in the Parliament. The Institute bases this assessment on our analysis of what is required for Australia to contribute to effective global climate change solutions and build a prosperous, resilient economy and society.

This policy brief explains the rationale for our 2013 Federal election policy tests.

This Federal election is critical to Australia’s economic and climate future. The next Government will determine whether Australia will:

1. Help or hinder global solutions to climate change: This will in large part be determined by our ability to meet international commitments to do our fair share to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and help the poorest countries adapt to an increasingly hostile climate and invest in low carbon development pathways. Both of these elements will influence the positive or negative role Australia could play in current negotiations to finalise a global agreement in 2015 that will cover emission commitments from all major economies.

2. Continue the historic decline in domestic emissions and accelerate low carbon investment: Driven by global trends and domestic policies like renewable targets and carbon prices, pollution from some of Australia’s largest emission sources have begun to decline. Positive global trends in clean energy technology and increasing scrutiny of the risks associated with investments in high carbon assets are among the global mega-trends that leave our economy exposed in the real world of significant, if insufficient, action to price and constrain carbon emissions.

3. Boost preparations for unavoidable extreme weather and other climate impacts: Agencies such as the World Bank, the IMF and the International Energy Agency are increasingly warning that climate change threatens to reverse gains made over decades of economic and social development. We no longer live in the relatively safe climate enjoyed by our ancestors. Even if we achieve more urgent and ambitious action now, our climate will get more hostile with the dangerous levels of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. How well we prepare for our increasingly unsafe climate will influence the health and wellbeing of Australians and our economic systems. It will determine the extent to which we can minimise the suffering of unavoidable impacts.

Australia is faced with a challenge to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable. To be credible, let alone strong and effective, 2013 climate election policies will need to:

1. Cut carbon pollution.

2 Accelerate low carbon investments.

3 Prepare for climate impacts.

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