Courage & Leadership to Avert Disaster

Courage & Leadership to Avert Disaster

The Rudd Government has been forced to defend its position on climate change after former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull unleashed a vitriolic attack on its political cowardice over its rejected emissions trading scheme, the CPRS. But, according to Eco Investor Editor Victor Bivell it’s an environmental disaster that is unfolding in Australia and the clean energy sector is among the victims. Unlike the BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, this one was brought about by the Government’s decision to delay the CPRS.

David McLennan in Canberra Times (14 June 2010):

The Rudd Government has been forced to defend its position on climate change after former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull unleashed a vitriolic attack on its political cowardice over its emissions trading scheme.

The Government also had to quell further speculation about its leadership and whether Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would keep the top job given Labor’s parlous state in the polls, or whether his deputy Julia Gillard should lead the party to the next election.

Mr Turnbull, who crossed the floor to vote for the Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme after being dumped by his party for supporting it, challenged Mr Rudd to call a double dissolution on the issue and accused him of squibbing the challenge by putting the scheme off until at least 2013.

”There is no reason no political, moral, economic or ethical reason for this extraordinary abandonment of responsibility by the Government,” he said at the weekend.

”What we need to become a truly low-emission economy is courage and leadership.

”Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice the like of which I have never seen in my lifetime before.”

He said Mr Rudd who once labelled climate change the great moral challenge of our time could take the issue to a double-dissolution election, but he did not have the guts to do so.

”And he wonders now why people now ask, What do you stand for, Kevin … What do you believe in? If you do not believe in action on climate change what is the substance, the political substance of your leadership? And the answer is, there is nothing there,” he said.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner dismissed the comments, which come ahead of the last sitting period before the winter break and, potentially, the election as Mr Turnbull trying to ”rebuild his shattered political brand”.

”We remain committed to dealing with climate change,” he said.

”International circumstances changed dramatically in the latter part of last year and we’ve had to respond to that. And had it not been for the Greens voting with the Liberals in the Senate we would have got our carbon pollution reduction scheme into law.”

This combined opposition meant that the scheme might not even pass at a joint sitting after a double dissolution, he said.


Victor Bivell in The Australian (15 June 2010):

SINCE BP first announced the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, what President Barack Obama is calling the biggest environmental disaster in US history has seen BP’s share price fall from about 650 pence to a low of 366p on Thursday of last week, a fall of 43 per cent.

In a similar time, many Australian clean energy stocks have fallen by a similar amount. Since April 23, shares in carbon sink company Carbon Conscious have fallen by 51 per cent, geothermal energy developer Geodynamics by 42 per cent, hot water company Quantum Energy by 33 per cent, wind energy generator Infigen by 29 per cent, bioenergy developer AnaeCo by 29 per cent, and geothermal company Hot Rock by 28 per cent.

So what have these companies done to be compared to BP? Are they behind a great environmental disaster in Australia? Certainly not. But an environmental disaster is unfolding here and the clean energy sector is among the victims.

The trigger was Kevin Rudd’s April 27 announcement of the delay in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and the lack of interim measures to take its place. Why the delay may have prompted share price falls equivalent to BP’s — a company that faces potentially multi-billion-pound costs for the clean-up and compensation claims — seems surprising and certainly unfair.

But there are similarities.

The news images of BP’s broken underwater pipe with an unending plume of oil gushing into the ocean is now a classic that will be replayed for years to come. So too BP’s dramatic attempts to cap the pipe — the container, the robot saw, the giant tin snippers. BP’s repeated failure to cap the pipe saw the problem quickly elevated to Obama’s desk; and the President’s inability to quickly end the problem saw his popularity fall just as quickly.

The image of the underwater pipe spewing oil easily morphs into the image of Australia’s coal-fired power station chimneys and Australia’s car exhaust pipes spewing carbon and other pollution into the air. These pipes have been pluming for years and Rudd came into office with a promise and a plan to cap them. The people bought the promise, even if the plan was not perfect. Like BP, Rudd tried a few times to put a cap on these pipes, but when the going got tough his mistake was to walk away from the job as if he didn’t care and without a back-up plan.

If BP said the pipe was too hard to fix and it was delaying the job for three years, the US would be in uproar. If Obama said the spill was too hard and he was putting it on the back burner for three years, the US would riot. Obama is smart enough to know that.

Our Prime Minister was not.

BP shot itself and the ricochet has hurt the President. Rudd shot himself, and the ricochet, instead of hitting the pipe-polluters, has hit the clean energy sector. If Rudd had only waited while the BP disaster unfolded, we may now have been on our way to capping our own pipes and it would be the clean energy providers, instead of the pipe-polluters, making money.

Victor Bivell is editor of Eco Investor Magazine. See


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