Climate Change & Energy on Political & Business Agenda

Climate Change & Energy on Political & Business Agenda

The head of property giant Lend Lease and chairman of the National Business Leaders’ Forum on Sustainable Development has called on business leaders to support the introduction of a price on carbon and an emissions trading scheme, saying climate change should be put firmly back on the political and business agenda. So who will head the climate change and energy portfolios in the new Government? Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator speculates.

Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator (9 September 2010):

There is growing speculation in Canberra that Senator Penny Wong will no longer be in the climate change portfolio when the new ministry is announced early next week.

Three names have been suggested as her replacement – Greg Combet, Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke. None of these are particularly contentious, even among the environmental NGOs, although Albanese’s appointment might be coloured by his animosity towards the Greens that nearly unseated him in the latest poll.

There is also talk that the energy portfolio could, or at least should, be on the move. This, however, may be based more on hope than fact; from those who either believe that climate change and energy should be part of the same portfolio, or who have been frustrated by Martin Ferguson’s perceived lack of enthusiasm for non-carbon energy.

Wong’s predicted departure is seen as voluntary as much as enforced. She is said to be exhausted by three years of working on the incredible detail of the CPRS, dealing with international climate negotiations, and then having the whole issue used as a political football between the competing ambitions of Labor apparatchiks and conservative scaremongers.

She and others feel a fresh start is needed – if not in policy, then at least in positioning. Labor has to learn how to sell its climate policy, and the new parliament will require someone with considerable negotiating skills to deal with the Greens and the independents. Wong is seen as more of a technocrat than a wheeler-dealer.

Combet would make sense because he acted as junior climate change minister in the latter part of the Rudd government – although there is also speculation he may go to defence – while Burke has acted in the agriculture and sustainable population portfolios, which gives him a sort of appreciation for the issues at hand.

Albanese might be motivated by his own political survival: if the ALP fails to advance climate change policy in this parliament, then his seat of Grayndler is most under threat.

Other names mentioned as possibilities include Kevin Rudd and Bill Shorten. The more fanciful suggestions have been Rob Oakeshott, or even Malcolm Turnbull, although that might be too much to digest even in these extraordinary times!

The fate of the energy ministry is of equal interest. Ziggy Switkowski last week made a public call for the energy portfolio to be merged with that of climate change – as has happened in the UK. And many agree – the stationary energy sector must, ultimately, bear most of the load of any far-reaching policies to reduce greenhouse emissions.

After all, it was the department of climate change that ultimately negotiated the amended legislation for the renewable energy target, and also looks after energy efficiency. It doesn’t make much sense for one market mechanism to be administered by one department, while other government mechanisms, such as the $5 billion promised to various clean energy funds, remain administered – and largely unspent – in another.

There is also immense frustration that Australia remains almost alone in the developed world in refusing to entertain market mechanisms such as large-scale feed-in tariffs, loan guarantees and tax incentives to encourage emerging technologies. Instead, the developers of these technologies  are forced to spend months competing with each other for handouts under various government programs such as Solar Flagships and the Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, all the while being told the government is not in the business of picking winners, when it is patently obvious that is exactly what it is doing.

And it seems clear – at least to the renewable energy industry – that the sector is best served by a progressive thinker who understands the dynamics in play from emerging technologies such as solar, geothermal and wave and tidal; new concepts such as distributed rather than centralised energy; and the possibilities, and changing business models, presented by smart technologies in grid and home infrastructure.

There are very few – beyond the tight cabal of coal-fired generators – that believe Ferguson is the right man for that particular task.


Business calls for carbon tax intensify

Nicole Stevens for AAP (3 September 2010):

The head of property giant Lend Lease has called on business leaders to support the introduction of a price on carbon and an emissions trading scheme, saying climate change should be put firmly back on the political and business agenda.

“A price on carbon will ensure Australia is well positioned to face the future and while both political parties vie for office, we have an opportunity to firmly place this issue back on the agenda,” Lend Lease chief executive Rod Leaver said in a statement on Friday.

Mr Leaver made the comments in his new role as chairman of the National Business Leaders’ Forum on Sustainable Development (NBLF).

The comments came as both major parties vie for independent support to win office.

Mr Leaver said the introduction of a carbon price would offer Australian businesses the certainty needed to invest and develop the economy.

“I am urging other business leaders in Australia to speak out and show their support for the introduction of an emissions trading scheme within the next year.”

Mr Leaver, who succeeds Martyn Myer as chairman, will serve a three-year term at the helm of the NBLF.

The NBLF is calling for 23 key reforms, including a 25 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and a 90 per cent cut by 2050.

“We’ve long embraced sustainability in our work practices at Lend Lease and I believe it’s vital for Australia’s business success to help progress this agenda,” Mr Leaver said


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