Letter to BCCAG from Tim Wilson 18 September 2018
At our successful August Forum at which we had a panel discussing whether government policy adequately addresses climate risk, we had Tim Wilson defending government policy.
Following the forum, we sent thank you notes to each of the participants in the panel. Tim Wilson responded to our note which appears below.
RE: BCCAG Climate Risk Discussion
It was a great pleasure to present to the Bayside Climate Change Action Group’s recent forum on climate risk. As the local Federal MP for our community I take these issues very seriously, including being held to account by constituents. In fact, I believe that I am the only Federal MP who studied climate science at university and as a result of this, I am well attuned to the issues of risk, as well as appropriate policy responses.
There is no straightforward answer to the issues posed by climate risk. Australia faces important choices about how to cut emissions, while keeping the economy growing to provide the jobs, and the reliable energy Australian households need. When households feel the pinch and workers lose jobs their concerns about the environment become second-order to immediate issues of urgent economic need. That’s why we need to be honest about the trade-offs and consequences of policy so we can get the right outcome.
We have to act proportionately, which is why we are working with other countries to cut emissions.
There is a diversity of views about how this is best achieved. And they are not always inconsistent. Australia has great opportunities to both reduce our energy consumption and improve our national economic competitiveness, which needn’t be inconsistent with cutting emissions. We can change the way we use land and update our environmental practices, to help improve economic activity, reduce waste and cut emissions. That has been the focus of the Federal government’s approach towards reducing emissions since 2013, and we will maintain this focus in to honour our election commitment to meet the target of between 26 and 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.
It is also important to be honest. The job of the Federal government is to make commitments to cut emissions, and to provide pathways to do so. We do not have all the power of the nation. Almost all the levers in the energy sector – the biggest source of our national emissions accounts – sit with the State governments. They can impede the development of sensible policy. That was demonstrated recently with the negotiations around the National Energy Guarantee, which was designed to bring the States and Commonwealth into a common policy framework. The Victorian government demanded conditions that made it harder to achieve a united outcome. That is the risk of judging policy based on intent, and not its consequences. I supported the NEG because I thought it was the right policy. But it required the Commonwealth and States to work together. The Victorian Andrews government had another agenda. Purity has undermined resolution on an agreed framework for too long. Everyone can now see what happened.
The Federal government is now developing a new emissions reduction policy framework that looks at all sectors. The greatest opportunity to reduce emissions remains technological advancement. A decade ago solar PV cells were inefficient and expensive. Today they are competitive against existing power generation methods. Battery technology holds huge promise. Hydro power provides incredible opportunities to meet energy needs. And technological innovation will provide the same opportunities for efficiency and emission reduction in transportable energy and agriculture.
We must view the future as optimists. Technologies are coming into the market because innovators see opportunity. Taxes and regulatory burdens have created a complicated mess. Our task is to fix the problems and deliver an environmentally and economically sustainable solution. That is where my focus as your local Federal MP is, and will remain.
Tim Wilson MP
Federal Liberal Member for Goldstein
368 Centre Road, Bentleigh VIC 3204
+61 (0) 3 9557 4644