Community group Climate Action Hobart today called upon the Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, to right the wrongs of Labor's climate policy fiasco by abandoning - or at least completely rethinking - its three-time loser policy, the CPRS.
"If this is 'climate change week'", said Climate Action Hobart spokesperson Phil Harrington, "then this may be the last chance for the Government to get its policy right on climate change before it goes to what could be a disastrous poll".
Climate Action Hobart is an independent community-based organisation dedicated to a safe climate, based in Hobart.
"It's not that Kevin Rudd was punished for failing to deliver the CPRS", said Mr Harrington. "No-one voted for a CPRS - most people don't even know what it is. The Labor Party was elected in 2007 to take strong, effective and urgent action on climate change. Instead we were offered the CPRS, a policy so poorly designed that it was disowned by the Government's own climate advisor, Professor Ross Garnaut, and rightly rejected by the Senate three times."
"The new Prime Minister has no mandate to bring this three-times-failed policy back into the public debate. She does, however, have the opportunity to ask why this policy failed, and then to go back to the drawing board", said Mr Harrington.
After nearly three years in power, and despite a clear electoral mandate, the Government has produced no comprehensive climate change strategy or plan to reduce emissions in Australia.
"Pricing carbon is an important strategy, but it's only one of a host of effective climate policies", said Mr Harrington. "Advocates of the CPRS have found it necessary to demonise alternative emission control policies and their supporters in an effort to bolster their arguments - arguments that have failed to impress the specialists and the public alike."
"The CPRS was based on a completely inadequate 5% target that ignored the best scientific advice available; it paid the biggest polluters in the country billions of dollars to Continue Polluting Regardless; and it also handed them property rights that would have seen them in line for more billions of taxpayer funded compensation when targets are inevitably tightened in line with international agreements".
"Worst of all", said Mr Harrington, "the efforts made by Australian mums and dads to reduce their emissions - by saving energy, taking public transport or installing solar hot water - would not have led to one gram of greenhouse gas emissions savings under the CPRS. Instead, major polluters like coal-fired power stations would have been given a freebie - the right to pollute more, or else pay a lower carbon price, thanks to the efforts of ordinary Australians trying to do the right thing at their own expense".
The Government needs to listen to new voices in this debate - not only the major polluters and the architects of the CPRS. It should engage directly with the community to formulate a strategy owned and understood by the community.
"Such a strategy would set targets based on the best-available science and an enlightened understanding of where Australia's best interests lie in an increasingly carbon-constrained world", said Mr Harrington. It would use a broad and risk-managed mix of measures, supported by evidence-based analysis. It would clearly communicate to the Australian people the steps that Australia, as the most carbon-intensive polluter in the OECD, will take to reduce its greenhouse emissions, by when.
"If carbon pricing is to be part of this strategy, as it should, then in the short term it would need to take the form of a carbon tax - with no exemptions for major polluters", said Mr Harrington. The option of an appropriately designed emissions trading scheme should not be ruled out for the future.
"The argument that Australia cannot exercise leadership until after the rest of the world does, and until after every last man, woman and child in Australia has come to a 'community consensus', would have to be one the more interesting interpretations of the word 'leadership' to have emerged in recent years", said Mr Harrington.
"What this race to the bottom ignores are the well-documented strategic, economic and social benefits - including new green jobs - that are on offer if we move decisively enough to embrace a low-carbon future, and the risks if we fail to act. Waiting until the rest of the world has an unbeatable lead on us would be the height of foolishness".