PM Scott Morrison’s split-brained endorsement of the Paris accords on one hand and his pledge to lower electricity prices on the other does more than enshrine cognitive dissonance as official policy. It also validates Labor’s pledge to do an even better job of stuffing the economy
There are a number of myths surrounding the Paris Agreement. The first and strangely enduring one is that Tony Abbott committed Australia to the pact. Let’s accept that, as prime minister, Abbott agreed negotiations could be based on a 26% target. Unfortunately for Abbott, he was knifed some three months before the agreement was signed, which happened on December 12, 2015.
Abbott says his intention was that the agreement should apply to Australia only if all other countries made meaningful commitments and stuck to them. In other words, he reserved the right to withdraw were it to become obvious the agreement was not working, which has now become apparent, as even the climate alarmists are conceding. He rightly points out that Donald Trump clearly signalled his intention to withdraw if elected and that the US exit, now implemented, would have altered what he has presented as his own tentative and conditional Paris commitment. That may be self-serving rhetoric from Abbott but, since he was denied the opportunity to put that professed resolve into practice, we can give him the benefit of the doubt.
What can be said unequivocally, however, is that Tony Abbott did not commit us to the Paris Agreement and, further, that there is nothing inconsistent in his current advocacy of our withdrawal.
The second myth is that Australia’s observance of the Paris accord’s “obligations” extends only as far as the electricity sector. Here is Chris Kenny in the Weekend Australian (emphasis added):
It is one thing for Morrison to remain in Paris but it is quite another to place great store on meeting the targets. Most other signatories have no meaningful targets to meet or are on track to miss them. Our Prime Minister ought to make clear that if something needs to give on electricity prices, reliability or emissions targets, it is the climate goals that will be disregarded.
Instead he is stuck arguing a contradictory line: that the Paris emissions reductions can be delivered at no cost, but Labor’s higher targets will be costly.
The point Kenny neglects to mention is that the Paris agreement applies to the whole economy, not just the electricity sector’s mere 30% of our emissions. There is no inherent contradiction in Morrison’s position. He could exempt the electricity sector from any further mandated cuts and make up the shortfall by imposing additional burdens of the other sectors, principally transport and agriculture.
So why hasn’t Morrison said this explicitly? No doubt because he doesn’t want to unsettle Liberal warmists and, as a result, the public is being lulled into the false belief that the hobbles current emission-reduction efforts impose on both the economy and household budgets will be the end of it. Morrison himself perpetuated this subterfuge-by-omission during an interview with Leigh Sales (above). Under a headline that states “Paris and low prices possible.” The Australian reports that encounter thus:
“Scott Morrison says the government can still achieve its Paris emission reduction targets while reducing energy prices.”
And quotes him thus:
“We will meet our targets. The 26 per cent reduction emissions target has been set. It’s been the same for 4 years, there’s been no change.”
Morrison then tables for the record this feat of legerdemain:
“It’s 26 per cent to get electricity prices down,” Mr Morrison said. “What we’re not going to do is legislate a 45 per cent target, which is what Labor would do, which means energy prices will rise up to an estimated $1400 per household.”
As all householders being gouged by AGL et al should by now understand, introducing renewables to cut emissions, plus the elevation of their promoters to a protected class of policy-favoured subsidy spongers, caused prices to rise in the first place. But adding more renewables to achieve the 26% reduction will reduce prices, or so Morrison seems to be saying. But going to 45%, as Bill Shorten vows to do, will cause them to rise. Huh? Australia’s schools are rightly criticised for falling standards in mathematics and science, but Morrison’s line of argument would seem to suggest that basic logic is an even greater casualty of the general dumbing-down.
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Kenny’s analysis is by no means unique in reinforcing the widespread mis-perception that once we’ve cut emissions in the electricity sector by 26% the job is done. And they are being told, by Morrison and the renewable industry, that the target will be easily achieved anyway by 2020. Were Morrison to say what he must surely grasp, that the pain engendered by the electricity sector’s move to renewables is only the start, more voters might join the chorus demanding an exit from the Paris Agreement. More to the point, such honesty might well draw back to the fold voters whose distaste for Malcolm Turnbull’s ardent warmism saw them abandon the Coalition as an intellectually corrupt/profoundly stupid aggregation of green-washed fourth-rate minds.
Because politicians, including our latest PM, shy from mentioning the truth about the agriculture and transport sectors being next in line to be mauled, the likes of columnist Paul Kelly are free to cite polls showing “the public expects Australia to participate in global action on emissions reduction.” Forget for a moment that polls commissioned by, say, the Australia Institute only ever ever seem to produce findings endorsing Australia Institute positions, the alleged levels of public support is almost certainly due to respondents lacking a full appreciation of the real cost and necessary extent of such action. How could they? If the government has done any costing on this broader and deeper commitment to the articles of warmism, as enshrined in Paris, these findings have been kept from the public. Morrison should be called out on this.
Another myth is that the Paris targets are no more than “aspirational”, to quote Peta Credlin, never intended to be binding, let alone legislated. Yes, it is true the Paris targets are non-binding, which simply means there signatory nations face no specified sanctio0ns for failing to meet them. The accord also mandates that countries can increase their targets but not reduce them. The clear intention going into the Paris talks was that the agreement would be binding. As it turned out that was a step too far. In the end, what was agreed was that countries would make their best endeavours to meet self-imposed targets. Given that CO2 emissions reductions impose significant costs on individuals and business, ‘best endeavours’ necessarily mandate legislation of some kind or other, as voluntary action is unlikely to work. Real-world evidence establishes that very few people will agree to even to a voluntary and trifling two-dollar “carbon offset” when the booking plane tickets. So how much more receptive will they be when it is made clear that 26% emissions reduction in the electricity sector is just the start of the pain. The targets may not be binding on the government but, to comply with the spirit and intent of the agreement, government must make them binding on their citizens in some way.
The grim fact is that, while we could repudiate the Paris Agreement, such a step would not stop a future Labor legislating its own targets, as it has pledged to do. In this regard, as with so much of the tin-eared Turnbull era and its lingering legacy, the Coalition’s own rhetoric about the planet-saving need to reduce emissions essentially endorses Labor’s intention to implement the greater and more onerous cost burdens that will be needed to reach its even more ruinous targets. If conservatives — genuine conservatives, that is, not your Turnbullian relics, weak green reeds and wooers of doctors’ wives — are to win this debate and, in the process, lift the Coalition’s chances of re-election, they must ensure their arguments are rooted in both a complete understanding of the facts and a willingness to explain the adverse consequences.
So why should the government repudiate the Paris Agreement? There are three reasons:
The first, as a symbolic gesture that we will not subordinate our national interest to the United Nations for purely symbolic rhetoric.
Second, to deny Labor a tool with which to wedge the Coalition by preaching their own superior virtue viz a stronger version of Paris than the Coalition’s.
Third, of course, is the matter of the $100 billion annual Green Climate Fund to which we are expected to contribute substantially. UN apparatchiks are now beside themselves with anxiety as the US withdrawal signals that the anticipated transfer of cash from guilt-ridden First World nations to kleptocratic Third World ones is increasingly in grave doubt. That should tell you all you need to know about the real agenda.
Before doing anything more to compound the damage of Turnbull’s green fixation, Morrison might wish to review his own recent past, especially his former opposition to the royal commission into banks and other financial institutions. He now concedes that was a mistake. Remaining silent on the climate scam, even if only with the intention of paying paying lip service to Paris, will be a much bigger blunder, both for his hopes of the Coalition’s re-election and, more important, for every Australians’ future.