The Politics    Friday, December 3, 2021

Go figure

By Rachel Withers

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during Question Time earlier this week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during Question Time earlier this week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

How did Labor end up with an emissions-reduction target of just 43 per cent?

Labor has announced its long-awaited 2030 emissions-reduction target, and the number is predictably disappointing. The cut – 43 per cent on 2005 levels – is marginally lower than the 45 per cent pledge that the party took to the 2019 election and much higher than the Coalition’s 26–28 per cent commitment, but significantly below the Greens’ 75 per cent target, which the Climate Council says the science demands. The slower interim effort will mean much sharper cuts will be necessary in the years following. The figure is also not that different to where state pledges are already projected to take us, experts note, making this pretty much a business-as-usual approach. (It’s also notably lower than the Business Council of Australia’s target.) The unambitious target seems rather disconnected from the needs of the planet, but perfectly calibrated to avoid being wedged by the Coalition, while still offering a reasonable contrast. Resources Minister Keith Pitt, a man with little interest in the needs of the planet, immediately questioned how much science was behind Labor’s target, noting that the number feels like it was drawn out of a barrel. On the contrary, much thought appears to have gone into exactly what figure would upset the least amount of people.

As expected, however, the middling target has upset many – or at least the loudest voices. Prime Minister Scott Morrison quickly slammed it as dangerously high, while Greens leader Adam Bandt characterised it as so low as to be defeatist. Bandt’s comments likely won’t stop Morrison from fearmongering about a Labor–Greens coalition government, but they would, in a reasonable world, put a stop to the PM’s claims that Labor is full of radical greenies (they won’t). It remains to be seen how the moderate voters of the inner-city Liberal seats will take to Morrison deriding 43 per cent – a number far below what is required. The Labor purists, unsurprisingly, are praising the uninspiring number as “electable”, “reasonable” and “pragmatic.” Plus ça change…

In an afternoon press conference, Labor leader Anthony Albanese and climate spokesperson Chris Bowen promoted the newly adopted target, along with the “fully costed” modelling to go with it, calling it the “most comprehensive modelling ever done by any opposition in Australia’s history”. (Questions arise as to how it could be so thoroughly modelled if shadow cabinet only settled on the target this morning. Guardian Australia reports that Bowen had prepared multiple options in the 35–45 per cent range, depending on which policy measures the caucus was prepared to adopt.) The plan contains a fairly wide-ranging suite of policies, focused mostly on creating jobs (604,000 by 2030, and five out of six in regional Australia, Labor claims) and lowering transport and electricity pollution (while, of course, cutting power bills). A plan to install 400 community batteries across the country for households that cannot install solar panels of their own was framed in this morning’s Nine papers as an attempt to “target inner-city Greens voters” (lol, said the Greens), and this was promptly seized upon by Energy Minister Angus Taylor, who labelled it a taxpayer funded “rort”. He was, quite rightly, torn apart in the replies.

Labor’s 2030 target has disappointed many, but it’s certainly higher than the Coalition’s, no matter what Liberal MP Dave Sharma might say. The threatened “moderate” is today being savaged over his recent claim to the Wentworth Courier that he had secured an “an upgraded 2030 emissions-reduction target”, when the government he is part of is steadfastly refusing to increase it. (Sharma’s more recent flyers claims an update on the “projections” rather than the “target”, but the original lie still stands.) The Wentworth MP, whose inner-city constituents would no doubt prefer a higher target, is increasingly worried about independent challenger Allegra Spender, who is calling for a 50 per cent cut by 2030. Like the PM, Sharma appears to be getting a little desperate. And, also like the PM, he seems to have few qualms about twisting the truth.













Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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