Sustainability Bites

There is no such thing as a free lunch

politics

Environment Cabinet Papers 2003: An Emissions Trading Scheme was (almost) a lay-down misère

Environment Cabinet Papers 2003: An Emissions Trading Scheme was (almost) a lay-down misère

Back in 2003, PM John Howard’s colleagues were telling him that his entrenched views were standing in the way of sensible policy and that now was a good time to introduce an emissions trading scheme with minimal risk and minimum loss of face. In reply, Howard told his colleagues that his political instincts were right and that the most important players, key Liberal Party backers, agreed with him. The irony was that, while Prime Ministerial power might trump policy power, people power trumps the lot. Two elections later, in 2007, Howard was thrown out, partly because of their lack of action on climate change.

‘Nature Positive’ sausage anyone?

‘Nature Positive’ sausage anyone?

Next year, the Australian Parliament will consider one of the most significant environmental reforms in our history with the Government promising legislation to implement its Nature Positive Plan, replacing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. The path to this point has been long and winding. First the National Party backflipped on its support for the bill, then the Greens did a backflip on their opposition to it, all in pursuit of politics over policy. Then we come to other cross-bench Senators, whose position is variable at best and unpredictable at worst. We need this to work.

Biodiversity’s ‘Big Switch’: Ken Henry’s review of the NSW Biodiversity Act

Biodiversity’s ‘Big Switch’: Ken Henry’s review of the NSW Biodiversity Act

The Henry Review found, essentially, that the NSW Biodiversity Act is not working and that biodiversity continues to decline in the state of New South Wales. Although the law is complex, the policy bottom line is simple: biodiversity is protected to a degree, but this will never stand in the way of development prioritised by government. The review proposes to switch off the discretionary ‘balancing’ that occurs under the auspices of the Ecologically Sustainable Development principles (under which the ‘balance’ almost always favours development). And to switch on a ‘nature positive’ framework.

Fiddling while Rome burns – Delay follows denial, let me count the ways

Fiddling while Rome burns – Delay follows denial, let me count the ways

There’s probably not a government on this planet that isn’t telling its people they acknowledge climate change and are making ‘serious’ efforts to combat it. However, in the parentheses at the end of every proclamation is the implicit (sometime explicit) caveat that new policies won’t change the status quo, won’t slow down economic growth, won’t bite the hand of key stakeholders (read fossil fuel sector), won’t cost the voter anything additional and likely won’t even be implemented in the current electoral cycle. Climate delay may sound different to climate denial but it amounts to the same thing.

Down into the weeds again – the new government announces a return to bioregional planning

Down into the weeds again – the new government announces a return to bioregional planning

Our new environment minister has announced the government’s commitment to regional (biodiversity) planning. Australian governments have been talking about this approach for over 25 years. If done well, regional planning has the potential to enable biodiversity conservation to be integrated across land uses, programs and tenures, and enhance resilience to climate change. But doing it well will take money, good planning and collaboration with multiple partners – a big ask for any national government.

Triggering the safeguard or safeguarding the trigger: Climate, large emitters and the EPBC Act

Triggering the safeguard or safeguarding the trigger: Climate, large emitters and the EPBC Act

Triggering the climate safeguard or safeguarding the climate trigger
A climate trigger should be limited to actions that are not caught by the safeguard mechanism, such as land clearing.
However, there are some benefits that are better delivered by one or other of the two mechanisms.

What can we expect in Australia’s new climate law?

What can we expect in Australia’s new climate law?

Australia’s newly elected government has promised to introduce a Climate Change Bill. It won’t be available till later this month but we have a fair idea of what it is likely to say. It will not seek to reimpose a carbon price but will use an existing law reduce allowable emissions for the largest polluters. It will enshrine both Australia’s ‘net zero by 2050’ goal and its new Paris ‘nationally determined contribution’ of a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030. It will also restore the CCA’s role of advising Government on future targets; require the climate minister to report annually to Parliament on progress in meeting targets; and paste the new climate targets across into the formal objectives and functions of several government agencies.

A new government and a new environment minister – what now for Australian environmental policy?

A new government and a new environment minister – what now for Australian environmental policy?

While Labor lifted its game at the last minute with its environmental law reform policy, they can hardly be said to be environmental-policy high performers. So, what’s ‘on the record’ and ‘off the record’ for our new government when it comes to the Environment? What should our new environment minister prioritise?

In the war of the colour chart, where lies the colour of resilience?

In the war of the colour chart, where lies the colour of resilience?

Latest news in Australian politics: The blues, being overly influenced by the browns, thought they could ignore the wishes of electorate. They thought they could trounce the reds while laughing at the greens because they believed a sufficiently frightened public would shy away from change, stick with a status quo no matter how inadequate. The teals appeared as if from nowhere and proved them dead wrong.