Australia has been in the climate wars since late 2009 when Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull and made the pursuit of no climate policy a hallmark of Australian conservative politics. It has been an all-out battle at many points, simmering conflict at others. Investor confidence has been one of the casualties.
Now it appears that the Labor party is offering a truce. The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, offered the PM to “agree on an energy investment framework that will deliver the modernisation of our energy system”. Labor wants a “flexible and enduring” policy model that can adapt to different emissions targets and says it is agnostic about which policy instrument would deliver this.
The focus on investment in clean energy is absolutely right. Australia’s energy and industrial system is crying out for modernisation. The zero emissions options are right there, and they are affordable. In fact, renewable energy is becoming cheap enough for the tantalising prospect of exporting zero-emissions fuels and metals.
The government’s discussion paper towards its Technology Roadmap acknowledges much of this. But will government actually support the large-scale deployment of clean technologies? Will it pump much more money into its clean energy agencies ARENA and CEFC, and properly fund the universities for research? Crucially, will it set proper incentives and regulations for industry to invest?