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Turnbull turns up clean, green

By Simon Sheikh - posted Friday, 30 January 2009

While we can squabble over the lack of detail, costings, or the mistaken focus on so-called clean coal, one thing is clear: Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has announced the Coalition's target for emissions reductions is 27 per cent by 2020.

In 1990, Australia emitted 552.6million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Divide 552.6 by 150 and you've got a target more than five times as good as Rudd's measly 5 per cent by 2020.


Turnbull is right to point out that Labor's trading scheme is too complex and too weak.

In negotiating with emissions-intensive businesses, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave in. In doing so, he left for dead great Aussie landmarks like Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.

The Government's scheme, as it stands, ''locks in'' the total amount of carbon pollution our country will emit, leaving no room for individuals to push Australia past that target if we decide we want to aim higher.

For example, one of the many holes in the scheme means that, if an individual decides to ''do their bit'' and reduce their energy usage, they'll be making no difference to Australia's total level of carbon emissions: they'll just be allowing business to pollute more.

Turnbull has rightly identified the huge benefits we can derive from energy efficiency, particularly in the commercial property sector. This is an area so far overlooked by the Rudd Government, yet one that can reduce Australia's emissions quickly and cheaply.

A focus on reducing energy use in residential and commercial buildings is a plan that can pay for itself.


In his speech to the normally conservative Young Liberals Convention, Turnbull rightly said his approach would have a ''negative net cost''. That is, it can save us more than it costs us.

This is particularly relevant in the broader context of warnings from experts such as Sir Nicholas Stern that failing to combat climate change will yield an economic effect equal to both World Wars and the Great Depression combined.

Turnbull's comment that an emissions trading scheme is ''only one tool in the toolbox'' is sensible.

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First published in The Canberra Times on January 28, 2009.

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About the Author

Simon Sheikh is national director of the community advocacy group GetUp.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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