• Written by Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
In 2009, a Bob Brown-led Greens party voted against an emissions trading scheme – but they can't be blamed for what came after. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Federal Labor this week commemorated a dubious anniversary – a decade of climate policy failure. And it pointed the finger of blame squarely at the Greens.

Labor claimed that had the Greens not voted against its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in 2009, Australia’s carbon emissions would be more than 200 million tonnes lower and electricity would be more affordable.

Labor MP Pat Conroy said the Coalition and the Greens “bear a heavy responsibility for the fact that, a decade later, Australia still does not have an effective policy to tackle climate change by reducing emissions”.

But one moment in 2009 is not the root cause of ongoing parliamentary disagreement over climate action. And the Greens cannot be blamed for what came afterwards.

The main lesson from that time is that cynical parliamentary strategies and weak reforms from the major parties are at the heart of climate policy failure.

The Greens believed industries such as coal-fired power got off too lightly under the CPRS. DAVID CROSLING/AAP

A brief recap

To understand what played out in Parliament in 2009, it is useful to briefly refresh our memories on the couple of years that led up to it.

Labor’s proposed CPRS followed then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s famous call to act on the “great moral challenge” of climate change. The policy was a “cap and trade” emissions trading scheme (ETS) which in theory would have limited greenhouse gas pollution from industry.

Read more: Climate explained: how emissions trading schemes work and they can help us shift to a zero carbon future

Public concern about climate change at the time had peaked and Labor won the 2007 election partly on the strength of its climate policies.

The CPRS legislation followed the Garnaut Climate Change Review. Ross Garnaut, a prominent economist, proposed emissions targets that environmentalists considered inadequate. Meanwhile industry, which would have incurred costs under the scheme, was unhappy with the limited compensation proposed.

Kevin Rudd and then-climate change minister Penny Wong outlining the CPRS. Alan Porritt/AAP

During the Rudd Government’s first two years, Garnaut’s vision was severely weakened – not least due to proposed industry exemptions and compensation, and unlimited industry access to carbon offsetting.

Read more: The latest turn in the twisty history of Labor's climate policies

It seemed likely the scheme would have created corporate windfalls at considerable public expense, without achieving much emissions reduction. It was opposed by the Greens, led by Bob Brown, along with many economists and most environmental groups.

The CPRS bill was twice rejected in the Senate, partly because the Greens voted against it both times.

Rather than call a double-dissolution election, Rudd announced in April 2010 the proposal would be shelved.

Cynical politics

The political failure of the CPRS reflects the deeper malaise in parliamentary responses to the climate crisis. In 2009, federal politicians were as they are now – extremely unwilling to develop reforms commensurate with the severity of the climate crisis.

As 2009 wore on, fissures opened in the Coalition over the CPRS as then Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull clashed with Tony Abbott and the Nationals over the policy.

The Coalition’s Malcolm Turnbull clashed with Tony Abbott over whether to support Labor’s emissions policy. AAP

Labor sought to leverage the CPRS for short-term political gain. It strung out the parliamentary dispute and frequently reminded the Coalition of its internal tensions, rather than genuinely try to broker agreement for emissions reduction.

Labor was also said to be unwilling to cooperate with the Greens by engaging with their proposed amendments.

But does Labor have a point?

Labor’s view that we would be better off now if the CPRS had been instituted in 2009 seems reasonable on the surface.

It’s possible that an Abbott campaign to repeal the CPRS may not have taken off as it did later against the Gillard government’s carbon price. However it’s too much of a leap to assume better-timed legislation for one weak policy alone could have built consensus for real emissions reduction.

Had the CPRS been voted in, the Coalition would still have railed against it, likely preventing the future reform needed to achieve meaningful emissions reduction. The European Union experience shows that cap-and-trade schemes, once implemented, don’t neatly resolve the competing political demands of the fossil fuel industry and public concern about climate change.

Read more: Global emissions to hit 36.8 billion tonnes, beating last year's record high

By design, the CPRS had negligible impact on fossil fuel extraction, partly due to overly generous compensation arrangements for miners. So the CPRS would not have prevented the damaging internal debate in Labor over support for new coal and gas mines, which has curbed the ambition of its emissions reduction policies.

Rising electricity prices could not have been attenuated by a stable carbon price alone. And the effective Renewable Energy Target might not have been preserved had the CPRS endured.

The Greens were concerned that the CPRS gave too many concessions to coal. AAP

A new decade of ambition

Australia’s major parties have never proposed a climate and energy reform package that transforms how we work, live and relate to non-human nature.

Internationally, there is growing appetite for such policies. In the US for example, momentum is growing for a Green New Deal focused on industry policy and social reforms such as job guarantees and basic incomes.

Read more: Labor's reset on climate and jobs is a political mirage

Both Labor and the Greens are moving in this direction. Labor leader Anthony Albanese has emphasised opportunities to rebuild manufacturing through a green industrial revolution. The Greens are calling for the same kind of plan. They want a 2030 cut-off point for thermal coal exports and coal-fired power too.

Now, more than ever, we need bold, effective and fair climate policy that people can get behind. The Coalition continues with the opposite.

Labor and Greens have a responsibility shelve the CPRS blame game, and work together on something better.

Rebecca Pearse is part of two research teams that hold current Australian Research Council grants.

Authors: Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/its-the-10-year-anniversary-of-our-climate-policy-abyss-but-dont-blame-the-greens-128239

All You Need to Know About Trenchless Technology

For many years, the traditional sewerage lines and pipe developments were not enough due to the long wait and cracking. The traditional sewer pipe repairs involved cracking the earth to find the par...

News Company - avatar News Company

Before we rush to rebuild after fires, we need to think about where and how

A primary school in East Gippsland was burnt down in the current bushfire crisis. While Premier Daniel Andrews immediately committed to rebuilding the school as it was, media reported the local CFA ca...

Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle - avatar Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle

Australian sea lions are declining. Using drones to check their health can help us understand why

Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) are one of the rarest pinnipeds in the world and they are declining. Jarrod Hodgson, CC BY-NDAustralian sea lions are in trouble. Their population has never rec...

Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide - avatar Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide

With costs approaching $100 billion, the fires are Australia's costliest natural disaster

It’s hard to estimate the eventual economic cost of Australia’s 2019-20 megafires, partly because they are still underway, and partly because it is hard to know the cost to attribute to de...

Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University - avatar Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University

In cases of cardiac arrest, time is everything. Community responders can save lives

Cardiac arrest can occur with little or no warning in people who were previously healthy, including young people. From shutterstock.comEach year more than 24,000 Australians experience a sudden cardia...

Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University - avatar Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University

So the government gave sports grants to marginal seats. What happens now?

When Australians pay their income tax, they assume the money is going to areas of the community that need it, rather than being used by the government to shore up votes for the next election. This is...

Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University - avatar Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

The Olympics have always been a platform for protest. Banning hand gestures and kneeling ignores their history

It is the year of the Tokyo Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee was quickly out of the blocks with new guidelines regarding athlete protests. The IOC is worried the biggest stories of...

David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University - avatar David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

Where Can You Get Weed By Ordering It Online?

Nowadays, everyone wants to get their hands on some weed. Marijuana has become legalized in a lot of countries worldwide. People wait in lines for days to buy some. You couldn’t have imagined that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Hidden women of history: Catherine Hay Thomson, the Australian undercover journalist who went inside asylums and hospitals

Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover as an assistant nurse for her series on conditions at Melbourne Hospital. A. J. Campbell Collection/National Library of AustraliaIn this series, we look at under...

Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW - avatar Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company