The Australian Labor Party had its national conference yesterday. They are Australia’s only practical hope for action on climate change and energy transition.

However, they seem to have decided to support, and lock-in, gas and drop any targets for 2030.

The Party platform, makes a lot of vague statements, but it does commit to a ‘safely in the future’ target of: “zero net emissions by 2050”

We should note that a recent report from the Australian Academy of Science states:

The total emission reductions currently pledged by the Australian and international governments through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement (UNFCCC), even if implemented on time, will translate as average global surface temperatures of 3°C or more above the pre-industrial period by 2100….

If the international community fails to meet the emission reduction targets under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, this will result in a global mean surface temperature increase of approximately 3°C or more by mid to late century. This level of warming is well above the targets considered manageable under that agreement….

Given how much Australia stands to  lose if GHG emissions are not reduced, we also recommend that Australia accelerates its transition to net zero GHG emissions over the next 10 to 20 years.

The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world

Labor is not heading that way, but they do say:

as a substantial power we can make a significant contribution to international efforts on climate change, biodiversity and waste management….

Working with First Nations peoples, modern science and traditional knowledge will together be instrumental in solving today’s environmental challenges.

We will develop and implement practical, collaborative policies informed by the best science and consistent with the goals of the Paris Accord to realise Australia’s huge renewable energy opportunities and ensure all Australians benefit not only through stronger economic growth but also access to more affordable energy.

ALP National Platform: p31.

Which is nice, but what does it mean? Is growth compatible with a decline in ecological destruction?

More dangerously they leap into stating, that:

Supported by the advice of experts including the Chief Scientist and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Labor recognises and supports the crucial role that Carbon Capture and Storage will play in abating carbon pollution and ensuring industries like heavy manufacturing and gas production are able to play their role in meeting carbon pollution reduction goals consistent with achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Labor has a proud history of supporting the development of CCS technologies, including through substantial financial support, which stands in sharp contrast to the record of the Coalition government which has abolished CCS support programs and cut $460 million in CCS financial support.

ALP National Platform: 32

You would have thought they might have learnt from the huge amounts of money they threw at CCS during their last period of government, that the fossil fuel industries are not that interested in CCS other than as an excuse to allow them to keep polluting, on the grounds that they might be able to capture emissions emitted in a distant future.

Companies working in Australia did some research on CCS, but none of it was as successful as promised, and non of it was successful enough to suggest that the dangers and risks of CCS (such as undetectable leakage, long term collapse, or poisoning of water supplies) were counter-balanced by its usefulness.

This policy marks an almost certain complete waste of money and effort. Although maybe government based research might be more productive? if we were lucky.

On the good side.

A federal Labor Government will join Australia with the dozens of countries around the world developing plans consistent with the Paris Agreement which requires a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities.

ALP National Platform: 33

Continuing the good side, if somewhat waffley:

Labor will modernise Australia’s energy system and develop a framework that will ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for families and businesses. Labor will ensure sufficient investment in new generation to replace retiring assets, support the electrification of our transport infrastructure, and grow new industries such as green steel and green aluminum, as well as ensure affordability, reliability and pollution reduction goals….

Community and publicly-owned energy systems will play a critical role in the modernisation of Australia’s energy system, including in regional and remote communities. Labor will support the ongoing development and deployment of community and publicly-owned energy systems, ensuring all Australians can access the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy.

ALP National Platform: 34

No targets or anything, or suggestions of how they will do this, but good.

This is followed by the lay down and surrender section

Labor recognises and supports the critical role that gas plays in the Australian economy. Labor recognises that gas has an important role to play in achieving Labor’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. Labor’s policies will support Australian workers in the gas extraction industry, building on Labor’s legacy of supporting sufficient and affordable gas supply for Australian industry and consumers. This includes support for new gas projects and associated infrastructure, subject to independent approval processes to ensure legitimate community concerns are heard and addressed.

ALP National Platform: 34

So gas can go ahead, and keep going ahead, despite the emissions. We can have lock in to fossil fuels! Not even a mention of phase out, or when it should be phased out by. Together with the up front emphasis on CCS, it appears “modernis[ing] Australia’s energy system” means staying with fossil fuels.

Labor will ensure the industry assesses and manages environmental and other impacts, including on water reserves and co-existence with other agricultural activities, and engages constructively with landholders.

ALP National Platform: 34

This has never worked in the past. Australia’s approval mechanisms tend to favour mining over agriculture – because mining is ideologically important and because mining is wealthy. So without modification of those processes, we can assume destruction of water and agriculture.

I am curious as to what “other agricultural activities” means in these circumstances. Gas drilling is now considered as agriculture?

The Federal government must also institute policies like more rigorous use-it or lose-it conditions for offshore gas resources, a price related export control trigger, and domestic reservation policies to ensure environmentally approved gas projects are developed for the benefit of Australians, including as a feedstock to crucial strategic manufacturing industries including chemical and fertiliser production. Consistent with the advice of energy market agencies such as the Australian Energy Market operator, Labor recognises that gas-power generation has a critical role to play in firming the National Electricity Market (NEM) to ensure reliability and price affordability as it transitions to net zero emissions and as other technologies emerge.

ALP National Platform: 34

“Rigorous use-it or lose-it”, implies offshore drilling must take place, rather than be delayed until it is pointless. That policy appears to be encouraging rush and ecological damage – leaks at sea are really hard to fix or even observe. Domestic reservation policies are largely irrelevant, as where the gas burns does not matter for climate. They restate the importance of gas, just in case you missed it, and cut backs in emissions seem to be phased into the distant future.

Working with industry, workers and states, Labor will ensure access to affordable gas to support Australian households, power generation and industry, including through measures designed to ensure Australia’s energy security.

ALP National Platform: 34

Lock in is clearly good. They assume energy security depends on gas, so consequently it will never ‘go away’.

I don’t think the platform says “Labor will ensure access to affordable renewable energy to support Australian households, power generation and industry.” So gas is special and privileged.

This idea that fossil fuels are a necessary economic backbone, which must be locked in, is further supported by another paragraph.

Australia is one of the only developed countries in the world that does not consistently meet the 90-day requirement for domestic fuel storage. Labor will secure Australia’s fuel security and ensure Australia meets its IEA obligations, including by ensuring a robust domestic fuel refining and storage capability.

ALP National Platform: 35

This is followed by another good point.

Labor recognises the strength and sustainability of our economy depends on the health of the environments in which we work, live and play… The current environmental trajectory is unsustainable…. Labor is committed to addressing the environmental crisis, while also building sustainable jobs and an economy that builds prosperous regions.

ALP National Platform: 35

Environmental protection is elaborated at such length, in comparison to everything else, that it is clear that Labor thinks environmental protection is a winner, in a sense in which climate change, or renewable energy, is not.

SO the conclusion is that the ALP is good on environmental protection, as long as it does not clash with fossil fuels, or maybe the environmental protection is where they hope to get movement on fossil fuels.

However, another light on environmental protection is shed by the Tasmanian Labor Party’s announcement during the conference period that:

Labor commits to legislate to protect workers from radical Greens

The Greens destroy jobs of hardworking Tasmanians

Labor wants to help the resources industry where the Liberals failed

A Labor Government will create the offence of aggravated trespass and put in place timber harvesting safety zones backed up with fines of $10,000 and up to 2 years in jail for individuals and up to $100,000 for entities.

Labor will protect resource industry where the Liberals failed, 30 March

So no more protests about deforestation in Tasmania by people wanting environmental protection. This is excused by preventing “dangerous workplace invasions” as if forests are workplaces alone. The proposed legislation seems to make sure that this just about stopping protests about tree felling or ecological destruction, just so unions don’t feel threatened about their capacity to protest changes in their workplaces. So is Labor’s environmentalism real, or just as shady as its gas policies?


Other recent comments on the ALP here….