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OPINION: Climate Wars Truce

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The climate wars are finally coming to an end. Hallelujah. For more than twenty years both the political right and left have sought advantage in picking a fight. In electoral terms the right has won more battles than it’s lost but the war looks like ending in a truce.

The chickens have come home to roost for Australia’s main right-of-centre party. Liberal Party MPs in what were once safe conservative electorates suddenly find themselves under attack from progressive independents railing hard against a Liberal Party they say has not taken climate change seriously.

This is the mirror image of the Labor Party’s challenge in traditional blue collar dominated electorates where many think Labor has taken climate change too seriously. Of course, this sentiment has been fuelled by Coalition campaigns which have too often misrepresented and overstated Labor’s position.

Now, those campaigns have come back to bite the Coalition. Even Treasurer Josh Frydenberg who holds the seat of Sir Robert Menzies and Andrew Peacock, is under siege from well-funded progressives waving climate change flags. It’s often called Karma.

But an armistice is exactly what we needed. The climate is changing, most agree. Most scientists say human activity is contributing to erratic weather events. So even the most skeptical should agree that on a matter so serious, we should act just in case. 

And we are acting – industry, investors, consumers and politicians alike. Our greenhouse gas emissions are falling rapidly and will continue to do so, even faster now the major parties have learned scare campaigns only result in mutually assured destruction (to borrow a military term).

Australia’s climate change policy can be proportionate and effective without destroying local industries and jobs. Particularly if we spend as much time focusing on how we might absorb or sequester more carbon as we do focussing on emitting less carbon.

It’s amazing how those on the left of the debate express confidence in our ability to produce green steel and hydrogen at a competitive price but argue emerging technologies which strip carbon from coal or gas will never be competitive. This is despite the fact that the carbon stripped can be used to make bricks and other commercial products. Their’s too often, is an ideological position.

We can absorb more carbon from the atmosphere in many ways. We can plant more trees and at the same time address our timber and paper shortages. We can improve soil quality, retaining more carbon and lifting food productivity.

Further, we can incentivise these practices by giving a carbon credit to those taking carbon out of the atmosphere and creating a market, allowing them to sell their credits to emitters striving to meet their obligation to do their bit to reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This is where the word “net” comes into play, the difference between what we emit and what we absorb. It makes sense.

Now a new battle front is emerging. Those who obsess over emissions are now looking for ways to attack the carbon market, describing it as flawed and open to dodgy carbon abatement claims. These people won’t be happy until our Nation is totally without the job creating oil, gas, coal and manufacturing sectors.

Policy makers will no doubt over time, improve the integrity of the still maturing carbon market. In the meantime, they should ignore those who believe the only way to save the planet is to sacrifice jobs in a country responsible for just 1.3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Let the major party climate wars truce be enduring.

Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP

Federal Member for Hunter

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