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Today’s lead article in The Australian (below), apparently based on information provided by the Abbott Government, confirms important features of the climate change policy of that  government and also appears to confirm a modest shift in the editorial attitude of The Australian. It follows the article by John Howard published last week in The Spectator (reflecting an address made in London to the climate sceptics organisation run there by former UK Chancellor, Nigel Lawson) and acknowledging that climate policy decisions under his government should have involved a more questioning analysis. 

Important points to note from today’s article include:

We are still left, however, with the Abbott Government’s policy of aiming to achieve a 5% reduction in emissions  by 2020 through the so-called direct action policy and through a policy of achieving 20% of electricity from sources other than coal, oil or gas. Despite its significant potential to reduce  efficiency, the latter part of the policy seems to have been ignored in the article, presumably because there is no separate funding provision for it. This overlooks the potential for regulatory arrangements restricting usage of fossil fuels.

Recipients of this message will already have received the message I circulated last week on my involvement with a group sending a Petition to the House of Representatives to adopt a motion asking the Government to have a comprehensive inquiry on the costs and benefits from programs designed to achieve the 5% reduction in emissions. If you have not “signed up”, please do so asap.

Des Moore

Climate tax, aid and fees off table as
cabinet toughens stance
(Article by Greg Sheridan published in The Australian, 11 November 2013.)

FEDERAL cabinet has ruled that Australia will not sign up to any new contributions, taxes or charges at this week's global summit on climate change, in a significant toughening of its stance as it plans to move within days to repeal the carbon tax.

Cabinet ministers have decided to reject any measures of "socialism masquerading as environmentalism" after meeting last week to consider a submission on the position the government would take to the Warsaw conference.

A further document was produced after the meeting that outlines the government's position.

The Australian has seen part of the document and it declares that, while Australia will remain "a good international citizen" and remains "committed to achieving the 5 per cent reduction" by 2020 of the 2000 levels of emissions, it will not sign up to any new agreement that involves spending money or levying taxes.

This rules out Australia playing any role in a wealth transfer from rich countries to developing nations to pay them to decrease their carbon emissions.

The decision hardens the nation's approach to the UN's negotiations amid a renewed push from less-developed countries this week for $100 billion a year in finance to deal with climate change.

Cabinet decided that Australia would consider joining a new scheme after 2015, but only if all the major global economies did likewise.

Senior ministers believe there is absolutely no chance of that happening.

The Abbott government has explicitly decided that it will not agree to any payments or accept any liabilities as part of any carbon agreement.

The government's document also says that Australia "will not support any measures which are socialism masquerading as environmentalism".

The document's commitment that the government "will review its commitment in 2015 in light of the science and international developments" deliberately allows a range of policy outcomes.

In the unlikely event that all major economies move in a concerted way, Australia could join in. However, the language provides that if the science becomes more unclear, and if nations move away from their earlier enthusiasm for action, then Australia also could wind back its efforts.

This explicitly does not mean winding back on the 5 per cent reduction target for 2020, but does mean that after 2020 things are less clear.

The government's document also says Australia's efforts on greenhouse gases will be conditioned by "fiscal circumstances".

This does not mean the Coalition's already announced financial commitments are in doubt, but indicates it is unlikely the government will spend substantial new sums of money, beyond what has already been announced, on reducing carbon outputs.

Tony Abbott has signed off on the new stance as he assures households he will cut their cost of living by abolishing the carbon tax, with the repeal bill to go to parliament on Wednesday morning.

The Prime Minister moved last night to intensify political pressure on Bill Shorten to back the repeal, telling voters in an online video message that the Coalition policy would cut their power bills.

"You've already voted on the carbon tax but now it's the parliament's turn. This is my bill to reduce your bills," Mr Abbott said in the video released last night.

"Abolishing the carbon tax will reduce the average household's cost of living by $550 a year."

But Labor and the Greens are set to stymie the repeal in the upper house, pushing for an inquiry to criticise Mr Abbott's direct-action policy to spend $2.8 billion on carbon abatement schemes.

"We would scrap the carbon tax, so long as there was real and effective policies to tackle climate change," the Opposition Leader said yesterday. "But if the Liberals have their way, and they've got this silly policy of direct action, which is just paying big polluters to pollute - we're not going to have a bar of that."

Coalition and Labor MPs fly to Canberra today for party meetings before the formal opening of the new parliament tomorrow, with carbon pricing expected to dominate debate in the first question time on Wednesday.

Alongside the carbon tax repeal, the Abbott government is planning to introduce bills to increase the debt ceiling to $500bn, repeal the mining tax, establish a more powerful building industry watchdog and toughen penalties for corrupt union officials.

Government sources cautioned that some bills might not be introduced this week, given the limited time to debate legislation after the ceremonial opening of parliament tomorrow.

The timing of the Warsaw conference on climate change is difficult for the government. It has decided that neither Environment Minister Greg Hunt nor Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will attend.

The Abbott government does not expect any significant progress to occur at the Poland meeting.

Ms Bishop will be at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting while part of the conference is on, and then at the annual AUSMIN talks as the Warsaw conference draws to a conclusion.

The government regards AUSMIN, the annual foreign and defence ministers' meeting between Australia and the US, as vastly more important.

Mr Hunt will be in parliament supervising the introduction of the legislation to repeal the carbon tax while the Warsaw conference is on. However, the government would most likely not have sent a minister in any circumstances as it does not believe the meeting will be of great significance.

Mr Abbott has been strongly critical of agreements in which Australian funds are used to buy permits that are meant to fund cuts to greenhouse gas reductions in other countries - a key mechanism in the global talks.

The Coalition based its criticism of Labor policy on official forecasts showing Australian emissions would rise over time and that the 5 per cent target was only reached by purchasing overseas permits at an eventual cost of $150bn a year in 2050.

"This is by far the biggest wealth transfer from Australians to foreigners that's ever been contemplated," Mr Abbott said of purchasing offshore carbon permits.

By formalising these concerns in official policy, federal cabinet is preparing to counter any move at the Warsaw talks to accelerate climate change financing deals meant to be worth $100bn a year.

On a per-capita basis, Australia's contribution to the $100bn in global climate change finance would be $2.4bn or more.

The government believes it is appropriate to have the Australian delegation led by the Climate Change Ambassador, Justin Lee, who was appointed by Labor and has led numerous Australian delegations to climate change talks.

Additional reporting: David Crowe

NIPCC has reached opposite conclusions on climate
(Letter by Bob Carter published in The Australian 9 November 2013.)

YOUR editorial on climate science sensibly suggests that critics of John Howard's recent address on the subject "should put aside their ideological beliefs and read the facts", but without telling readers where those facts can be found ("Climate science should be read, not believed as faith", 8/11).

In 1990, the date of its first report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change held a monopoly on giving scientific advice on the global warming issue. Now the situation has changed, and IPCC advice should be weighed against the analysis provided by 47 independent scientists in the most recent report from the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change.

Supporting Howard's caution about accepting the depiction of global warming hazards espoused by environmental lobbyists, NIPCC scientists examined the same corpus of published scientific research as did their IPCC counterparts, yet reached opposite conclusions, which were that late 20th-century warming and its ancillary effects lie well within the previous natural variability of climate change, and that no published evidence exists that human-induced carbon dioxide emissions have caused, or will cause, dangerous warming.

Bob Carter, International Climate Science Coalition, Townsville, Qld

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