The failure of the Rudd government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) to pass the Senate in August was no bad thing. The Greens were right to label it as “locking in failure”.
What has become clear is that Kevin Rudd is determined to deal with the Liberals to get the CPRS passed. After furiously resisting, Rudd has now agreed to split the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) legislation from the CPRS, to pave the way for negotiations with the Liberals.
The Liberals of course want even more compensation for their big business polluter friends. Rudd’s legislation already gives them too much. Aluminium and steel industries will get billions of dollars worth of free “pollution permits”, as will dirty electricity generators.
The CPRS should be voted down again when it is next introduced.
The CPRS carbon market will do nothing to combat climate change. Despite its introduction, for example, the NSW government has plans to build two new coal fired power stations, and others are planned for Victoria. The CPRS will also ensure that the costs are shifted away from corporations and onto the backs of ordinary people as electricity and food prices rise.
A leaked report by the Business Council of Australia reveals that banks, insurers and legal firms are expecting a financial bonanza from the introduction of Rudd’s scheme, anticipating trading in carbon derivatives.
However, the debate around the CPRS has starkly revealed the ongoing weaknesses of the climate movement. The debate was confined to what kind of CPRS. There were no calls for direct government investment in renewables.
The Greens voted against the CPRS. But they have staked their opposition to this CPRS simply on its present woeful target of 5 per cent emissions reduction, and would be willing to negotiate an Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) with Rudd if he was interested.
The NSW Greens pamphlet, “2 degrees to midnight” does not mention public investment in renewables, repeating the neo-liberal myth that “market signals” and a “well designed ETS” could encourage the private sector to act. A clear stand by The Greens opposing a carbon market would be a big boost to the political development of the movement.
Solving the climate crisis will mean massive programs to build renewable energy and public transport infrastructure. Kevin Rudd has committed to build one solar power station in the Hunter Valley. Why can’t he build the 20 and more that are needed?
The grassroots movement will need to seize every opportunity in the coming months to expose the criminal payouts to coal companies, to condemn the price rises inflicted on ordinary people, and to fight for job guarantees as part of a just transition to renewable energy sources.
A small picket of Kevin Rudd’s office, against the CPRS, called by the Sydney University environment collective got reasonable coverage, as did press statements from Friends of the Earth.
The movement needs greater clarity. This is why the debates taking place in climate action groups across the country are so important.
The biggest source of confusion lies around the role of the market and private industry. ETSs are failing around the world. Even retired economist Thomas Crocker who invented the “cap and trade” concept is now arguing it could not work to seriously curb emissions growth.
The global financial crisis which has thrown millions of people into greater poverty and unemployment shows the folly of looking to the market as any kind of solution to climate change.
It is only the working class that has both the interest and potential power to fight both the economic and climate crises and push for the massive transformation that is needed to fight climate change.
The union occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory in the UK—which is facing closure—shows what is possible.
It has been a lightning rod for struggle and has put real solutions to the climate and economic crisis on the table. Vestas workers are touring UK workplaces talking about how ordinary people can fight for climate justice, and calling for nationalisation of the plant.
Debates among activists building September’s demonstration at Victoria’s Hazelwood power station have centred on how the movement should orient towards workers. Rather than the demand to “Switch off Hazelwood”, Solidarity has argued for a focus on transition, raising slogans like “Re-power the valley” (see article p7).
In NSW, power station workers are locked in battle with the state government over privatisation. This too, is fertile ground for a campaign with the potential to ban the expansion of coal-fired power and demand public investment in transitioning existing power stations.
We need such a groundswell to drown out Rudd’s CPRS greenwashing on his way to Copenhagen.