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Clean Tech Cluelessness Flushed Out in the Floods

January 31, 2011

Australia is prone to weather-related disasters, whether drought or flood.  Both main political parties in Australia support policies to assist adaptation to the impacts of climate change – for both domestic and international audiences.

What they don’t seem to grasp is that greenhouse gas mitigation is the flip side of the coin to adaptation:  these aspects are inextricably linked.  For long term ecosystem and infrastructure sustainability, investment in strategic emissions abatement programs should be part-and-parcel.

However, structural reform policy is not implemented, and investment in clean tech innovation is a hotch-potch of unfocussed and badly structured loose change which is occasionally dug out from behind the back of the budget sofa.

At this blog, we immediately speculated that one of the impacts of the Queensland floods would be the withdrawal of funds from Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology investment programs, specifically identifying the flagship Wandoan CCS project in Queensland as a possible funding victim.

Now, it seems that this projection has proven correct – though more broad-brushed.

Bloomberg, among others, reported last week on statements (not readily available on an internet search) from both the office of the Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) and from the office of the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism (Martin Ferguson) that promised cuts to climate change-related investment programs. 

These statements infer that the cuts have been made as an effort to find opportunities for budgetary savings in the light of the burden on the public purse of the Queensland floods.

Certainly, however, an opportunity has here been taken to junk all, or parts of, a few widely-ridiculed policies (green car program, green loan program, solar flagships, CCS) which do not deliver innovation-for-money.  You don’t need a Freedom-Of-Information request to imagine the memos between ministerial aides pointing out the opportunity to bury these problem policies.

These policies are indeed basket cases:  the green loans program had the potential to be as embarassing in implementation as some other rashly-conceived residential property measures; the green car program was a poorly-concealed effort to throw the domestic car industry (a.k.a. Victoria automobile unions) a lifeline at the height of the GFC; and the solar flagships program seems to only support proven and/or overseas technology with little or no domestic component innovation benefits.

Be that as it may, what has been evident for some time should now be unsettling to all:  by mutilating their own clean-tech investment programs, the Australian Government has shown that it has no idea how to effectively spend to foster clean tech innovation.  In addition, by not re-allocating these funds to better clean-tech programs – but rather re-allocating savings to the general budget – it demonstrates an inability to grasp the inextricability of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Australian public are not willing to pay to address climate change – 33% of respondents to the Lowy Institute poll last year were prepared to pay exactly nothing – but are now being slugged with a special tax (‘levy’) to pay for the impacts of the most recent natural disaster. 

The science shows that these disasters may be influenced by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and may become more frequent, and more damaging. 

What will it take for the Australian public, and their elected representatives, to think and spend strategically on this issue?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jenna Polson permalink
    January 31, 2011 1:07 pm

    The PM’s address can be found at :
    http://www.alp.org.au/federal-government/news/rebuilding-after-the-floods/

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