Tuesday 16th of August 2022

somewhere over the rainbow .....

somewhere over the rainbow .....

from Crikey .....

Senator Milne: a few stings in the tail of the boring budget

Greens Senator Christine Milne writes:


Every Australian knows that, if you have two credits cards, it is very bad management to pay off your debt on one of them by racking it up on the other.

Last night's Budget pulled down the national economic debt, but it continued the process of racking up our ecological debt.

Once again, the funds allocated to renewable energy, public transport and energy efficiency pale into insignificance next to the tens of billions to roads and the military.

The $652 million of new money to renewable energy, saved due to the decision not to even attempt negotiations with the Greens over a carbon pricing system will be welcomed by an industry which has been starved of funds for so long. Even since the Rudd government's election, the promise of new funding has still been just that - a promise. Virtually none of the Renewable Energy Development Fund has been spent, and the Solar Flagships were only short-listed last night.

Piecemeal subsidies to renewables will only mean we will import technologies from overseas - where they take renewables seriously as an alternative to coal - to supplement a handful of coal fired power plants with some solar power.

We won't see long-term jobs or manufacturing set up here unless we get a policy framework in place that will actually deliver a transformation - and that does not mean a CPRS which is designed to secure ongoing investment in coal. The Greens will be pushing hard in the Senate and the election campaign for some of those policies - such as a feed-in tariff for all renewable energy, a significant increase in the renewable energy target, loan guarantees for large-scale renewable energy developments and a levy on big polluters.

The missed opportunity is stark, and the cuts to on-the-ground environment programs from Landcare to green car innovation to water tanks will be devastating to thousands of people. But the biggest sting in the tail - the decision which is likely to have the most far-reaching implications - is the government's decision to incorporate their entire commitment to climate financing for developing nations into existing aid budget promises, instead of making it additional.

You may recall that one of the few rays of hope at last December's Copenhagen Conference was the commitment by rich nations to allocate some US$30 billion to a fast-start financing program to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate changes already locked in. The understanding at the conference was that this commitment would be additional to existing aid budgets - indeed additional to promised increases under the Millennium Development Goals.

Outgoing Secretary of the UN climate process, Yvo de Boer, has repeatedly warned this year that the key challenge this year is to rebuild trust between developed and developing nations. Just this week, de Boer warned that if developed nations take their climate financing funds out of existing aid budgets it will be seen as "climate washing" and "not conducive" to that vital process of rebuilding trust. For a consummate diplomat like de Boer, this was very strong language.

The Rudd government has allowed domestic climate action to languish with yet another budget failure. But it has delivered an unforgivable blow to international climate negotiations at a time when we desperately need progress.

The Rudd government may think that racking up ecological debt in this way suits their short term political agenda, but it is not wise management for the future and it will not be appreciated by an electorate increasingly concerned about the impact of the climate crisis, extinctions and peak oil on their lives.

whilst, from another perch .....

Climate and environment: not much in the way of policy direction

Andrew McIntosh writes:

The climate and environment Budget for 2010-11 is a dull affair marked by program cuts, clean-ups and a marked lack of policy direction. The major news is the additional clarity the government has given on the future of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The Budget papers state:

The Government will not introduce the CPRS until after the end of the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and only when there is greater clarity on the actions of major economies including the US, China and India. This means the Government will not move to legislate the CPRS before the end of 2012, and will only do so after this time if there is sufficient international action.

Over the past few years, the government told us that delay is the strategy of the political coward; now it's official government policy.

In place of the CPRS, the government is offering more "bucket-of-money" renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, with $652 million in left-overs from the CPRS is being transferred into the grandiosely named Renewable Energy Future Fund, which will be applied over four years to support large -- and small-scale renewable energy projects and additional energy efficiency initiatives for business and households.

The lessons about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of these types of programs have seemingly been forgotten. And despite the hold ups and underspends that have plagued existing renewables programs, the government wants us to believe it will spend $394 million of this money in two years between July 2010 and June 2012. The other curious aspect of this program is how it will fit in with the Renewable Energy Target, which already provides an incentive for the uptake of renewable energy and is now divided into two parts; one for small-scale renewables, the other for large-scale projects. No doubt the industry will be looking closely at how the government plans to differentiate this program from those that already exist.

Positively, the government is providing $340 million for international climate initiatives; $178.2 million over two years for international adaptation, an additional $56 million over two years for the International Forest Carbon Initiative, and $106 million over four years for multilateral climate change finance. However, this appears to be less than Australia's fair share of the $US10 billion a year for the period 2010-12 pledged by developed countries under the Copenhagen Accord. It is also interesting that the government is rolling its international climate funding into its aid funding target of 0.5% of GDP by 2015.

Beyond the Renewable Energy Future Fund and international measures, there is little of note in new climate initiatives. There is $30 million over two years to run a national climate change education program -- something the sceptics will no doubt appreciate. The remainder of the money from the failed home insulation program is being redirected into the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme and then redirected back again to pay for the clean-up of the pink bats mess via the Home Insulation Safety Program, Foil Insulation Safety Program and Insulation Industry Assistance Program. The Green Loans Scheme is also being redesigned for the second year in a row with $109 million being provided for 600,000 home assessments.

The environment, water and heritage Budget is best described as frugal. Caring for our country has lost $80 million over four years, $180 million has been cut from the National Rainwater and Greywater Initiative over five years, and the National Urban Water and Desalination Plan has lost $70 million over two years. Given the limited evidence on the effectiveness of these measures, the cuts are probably justified in the current financial environment.

On the spending side of the ledger, there are only two new initiatives of note. The first is that the government is taking up the recommendation of the Hawke Review and establishing a National Plan for Environmental Information, worth $18 million over four years.

The idea of establishing a comprehensive national environmental database and robust set of national environmental indicators has been around for some time (the Howard Government even had a go at it before letting it slide off the agenda). However, this is the first time a government has made a meaningful commitment to getting it off the ground. Many might see this as a small measure -- and in many ways it is -- but it has the potential to provide significant benefits in research and policy development in the years to come.

The second big environment measure is $23 million over five years for the implementation of the National Waste Policy. This is hardly the type of thing that will set the world alight. Yet it is progress on a long-promised initiative.

Other things of note are that the government has brought forward $100 million in funding for water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin and reappropriated more than $100 million to the Department of the Environment for the laudable Working on Country program (it provides employment opportunities for indigenous Australians in environmental management).

All in all, the 2010-11 climate and environment Budget is one to forget.