As Australian politicians prepare for a federal election and the challenging task of framing a policy around the topic they dare not speak – climate change – they might take note of the course of the campaign in the UK, where the three major parties have come to an extraordinary consensus: green is good.
That may as something of a shock to those who see the UK as host to much of the climate change denialist debate, home to the so-called Climate-Gate imbroglio and the launch-pad of the sell-out Lord Monckton concert tour.
But the striking thing about the policy manifestos of the three major parties – Tories, Labour and the increasingly influential Liberal Democrats – is that they have a constant theme, and that is the need to chaperone the transition to a low carbon economy rather than dreaming up the best way to delay or avoid it, and to impose a price on carbon.
The three main parties have similar views on the creation of a low carbon infrastructure bank, green home loans, ambitious renewable energy targets and increased investment in clean coal technology.
Other details differ quite markedly, of course, particularly on some of the mechanism that might be used – renewable energy certificates versus feed-in tariffs, for instance, and on the use of nuclear energy and the proposed extensions of Heathrow Airport. The Tories, interestingly, are opposed to the airport extension, because it’s likely to lead to an economic cost rather than a benefit, once externalities such as a carbon price, environmental impact and transport are taken into account.
The Tories also want to legislate to impose a legal limit on the emissions from power stations, much as the Environmental Protection Authority is proposing to do in the US, provide a floor price in carbon, deliver an offshore electricity grid and create at least two marine energy parks, and create a ‘green deal’ to provide each home up to $11,000 of energy improvement measures.
Contrast this with the political discourse in Australia, to the extent it exists at all after the flicker of consensus that finally emerged with Malcolm Turnbull was so abruptly extinguished.
The Coalition’s response to the ‘green economy’ initiatives currently sweeping the agenda of both developed and developing nations amounts to a thesis on soil carbon and some enquiries into energy efficiency. The ALP, for its part, and for all its pretty rhetoric, has precious little to show for nearly three years in power. And doesn’t want to talk about it.
This is not to say that Australian politics and policy issues should be shaped in the same way as the UK, or elsewhere, but business knows that in a global economy the shape of green and low carbon policies in key trading economies and trading partners such as the UK, the US and China and elsewhere are of critical importance.
As noted last week, Australian business leaders are fearful that Australia has been poorly served on public policy on this issue. Worse, Origin CEO Grant King said last week he feared Australia’s politicians had been fatigued by the issue and a serious work to form a coherent policy might have to await a new electoral cycle.
Perhaps, though, the process might be accelerated by developments in the Washington. Reports from the US suggest Barack Obama, buoyed by success on health, is making climate change his next policy priority, just as soon as he’s finished with the banks.
Michael White, The Guardian: The rise and rise of Nick Clegg
Lauded Nick Clegg is growing in confidence
As polls show the Liberal Democrats gaining from the Conservatives and Labour, the party’s leader remains calm and assured
I wasn’t the only hack who had the same bright idea this morning – to see how Nick Clegg is coping with being compared to Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, Barack Obama and Mother Theresa.
I made up that last comparison, although a photo in today’s Mail has Clegg’s name on a church billboard in the same sized typeface as Jesus Christ, so I’m not far out. Clegg’s press conference was crowded with new disciples, plus St Vincent of Twickenham, his John the Baptist.
How’s he doing? Well, I thought, although there was a daffy passage (in response to a brutal question about his expenses from the BBC’s Andrew Neil) when he said of his constituency second home, in Sheffield Hallam: “My home is on loan to me from the taxpayer.”
By that, he means he will repay any capital gain. It was the only moment when he faltered, explaining repaid phone calls (£90 worth?), £5,000 spent to redo a derelict kitchen, plus a trip to Ikea and a spot of gardening.
But he is growing in confidence, as today’s Guardian/ICM poll underlines: 33%–30%–28%, with the Tory lead squeezed and Labour in third place. As Nick Watt reports, the Conservatives are having to rethink, and hard. Wow!
Although Clegg was respectfully attentive to Uncle Vince’s sometimes rambling answers – including one about a plywood firm which has to get its small business loan from a Belgian bank – one sensed the balance of power between the pair is shifting.
When a crafty reporter said Clegg had been complaining about an economic bubble in the banking system and added: “So what about political bubbles, can they burst too?”, the Lib Dem leader gave the right, short answer: “Yes.”
That’s the spirit. Clegg seems to understand that it could all be over in a week. He’s right. The major parties could recover their equilibrium.
It’s unlikely, but so was Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat by Spurs. The election and the Premier League are both as unpredictable as an Icelandic volcano. The weather is lovely and things are finally getting interesting.
Clegg and Cable were there to hammer home their message that the banks have to be brought to heel – broken up, too – before it is too late for the UK economy. Their liabilities are 450% of British GDP.