Federal Labor says it will focus on winning the “economic case” for climate change as the next federal election approaches and sees the “moral case” as remaining vulnerable to scare campaigns.
Speaking during a live taping of the Energy Efficiency Council’s First Fuel podcast, Labor climate and energy spokesman Chris Bowen said it would be essential to successfully communicate the benefits economics of the fight against climate change to win the political debate and the next elections.
“From my perspective, we need to win the economics of climate change argument to win the climate change debate and win an election with ambitious climate change policy,” Bowen said.
“My side of politics and those who care about climate change have repeatedly won the moral argument. They have won the argument that this is a moral obligation to future generations, to the rest of the world. But have repeatedly lost the argument that it’s good for Australia, economically.
“As a result, when the scare campaign starts over jobs, we lose the election and as a result, the country loses yet another opportunity to engage in climate policy,” Bowen added.
Bowen took over as Labor’s spokesperson on energy and climate just over 12 months ago as the opposition party sought to refocus its messages on climate change to focus more on the moral and environmental arguments to focus more on jobs and economic opportunity. created by the clean energy transition.
Bowen acknowledged that some Australian industries would be affected by decarbonisation, but added that he saw a positive overall opportunity for the Australian economy in a clean energy transition.
“There is always change when you change an economy. There will always be people affected. But you can also present, honestly, a very optimistic story about the future of renewables in Australia,” Bowen said.
“We should not let ourselves be drawn into the trap of climate change as a kind of engine of austerity, in which we have to reduce our standard of living. It is simply not true.
“The Australian people will rightly not vote for a negative outcome. They will vote for an optimistic, forward-looking and brilliant outcome, and that is what our climate change policies are designed for.
But Bowen, perhaps to the disappointment of his audience, warned that energy efficiency, often taken for granted to the community because of its low cost and big dividends, could be an area where a fear is launched.
Bowen said opponents of climate action could use the energy-reduction rhetoric as a way to instill fear of restricting people’s lifestyles, scare voters about limiting their use of appliances and reduced standard of living.
“I think we have to be careful in our communications because if we only talk about reducing energy consumption, we run the risk of being drawn into this austerity argument, that somehow other, climate change action is about having less stuff and being able to shoot less stuff, which is not good,” Bowen said.
“That said, absolutely [energy efficiency] is an important part of the mix. The easiest energy saving is the megawatt you have eliminated the need to be generated through energy efficiency.
“Our adversaries can very easily take a very sensible statement and turn it into ‘you won’t be able to turn on the lights.’ That’s bullshit, but it can be twisted,” Bowen added.
In December, Bowen unveiled the latest iteration of Labour’s climate policy platform, which would commit Australia to a 43% emissions reduction target by 2030, to be achieved through emissions caps. imposed on industrial emitters and to support new investments in the growth of renewable electricity. .
The policy platform will rely heavily on the existing safeguard mechanism introduced by the Abbott government. To date, the safeguard mechanism has done little to reduce emissions due to weak policies, but Labor sees it as having the potential to reduce emissions by tightening imposed emissions caps to major issuers.
Bowen said Labor would seek to embed energy efficiency into measures that form part of its policy platform, including planned safeguard mechanism reforms, rather than announcing a stand-alone energy efficiency policy at the approach of the next elections.
“I preferred to focus on integrating energy efficiency into the other policies we have and integrating them into the safeguard mechanism,” Bowen said.
“Obviously, [the Safeguards Mechanism] They are large industrial emitters as opposed to household ones, but that would be embodied in the embroidery, in the fabric, of the policy, rather than having a stand-alone energy efficiency approach at all levels.
“But in terms of households in existing households and low-income households, that would be something that I think would need an ongoing national conversation about,” Bowen added.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist at RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Prior to joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy industry for over a decade.