A broad alliance of Australian business, industry and civil society groups on Monday urged the government to provide a stable climate change policy that would provide for deep emission cuts and access to the international offset market.
The Australian Climate Roundtable, spanning groups as different as the Australian Aluminium Council, the Australian Industry Group, the Climate Institute, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Electricity Supply Association, released a set of policy principles it said would offer a way forward for climate policy.
“These principles will help end the frustration and disruption that business has faced from ever-changing climate policy,” Innes Wilcox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said.
“The shared recognition that we need to maintain competitiveness while reducing emissions over time is a major advance and a solid platform for future policy stability,” he added.
The political divide between Australia’s right and left on climate has led to major policy changes after each change in government in recent years, most recently last year when the Liberal government repealed Labor’s carbon pricing mechanism and replaced it with its so-called direct action plan.
Industry says the lack of predictability has been a major stumbling block for investment decisions.
In Monday’s joint statement, the groups called on the government to put in place a policy in line with its commitment to limit global warming to 2C that would ensure Australia does its fair share to cut global emissions.
“Achieving this goal will require deep global emissions reductions, with most countries including Australia eventually reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero or below,” it said.
The statement did not go into policy specifics, but did call for Australia to “make use of internationally recognised abatement from overseas”, which would mean a link to the international carbon offset market.
The government has previously ruled out using international offsets or reintroducing a market for emission permits in Australia.
The alliance said a climate policy should drive emission cuts across all sectors of the economy, but singled out Australia’s coal-dependent energy sector as especially important.
“Policy should recognise the strategic importance of reducing emissions from the energy sector in achieving the overall goal. It should provide a credible basis for planning and investment by the energy sector and energy consumers, maintain energy security and avoid sovereign risk,” it said.
The government is expected next month to announce the post-2020 emission target it will take to Paris later this year. That announcement is expected to be followed by a debate on which new policies, if any, Australia would need to put in place to meet that target.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org