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Why Australia’s Climate Bill matters


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CANBERRA, Australia – During my time in Australia, climate change policy has stymied governments, leading to division, inaction and confusion, most recently as the country has become increasingly volatile. a global laggard at last year’s international climate conference in Copenhagen.

That is now poised to change when the House of Commons passes a bill this week that will eventually put Australia on a path to a significant reduction in carbon emissions – 43 per cent above 2005 levels by 2030.

The bill is expected to be passed by the Senate next month, after the Labor government secured reluctant support from the Australian Greens, who have pushed for a higher goal. And it is being hailed as the most important climate code in a decade, and criticized for not going far enough.

Of course, both can be right, and in my conversation this week with experts in both climate science and climate politics, I was amazed by their expectations that the law would create motivation and progress.

The first thing they note: The goal itself creates a framework for stability and enhanced action; The 43% reduction in the law gives businesses and local governments the confidence to invest in reducing their carbon footprint without having to worry that competitors wanting to avoid such an expense will be rewarded later by another government that did not consider the changes necessary.

The second element of legislation that I have heard a lot about is a mechanism for independent assessment and improvement of this first step.

As the Climate Council notes in its analysis of the law:

  • It empowers an independent group of experts (Climate Change Agency) to monitor Australia’s progress towards the goals and help shape the direction towards future goals, including what is envisaged under the Paris Agreement for 2035.

  • Under the new law, the Climate Change Minister will have to report back to Parliament each year on Australia’s progress towards the country’s goals.

What those two factors do is force Australia to continue the conversation, with scientific experts playing a key role. That’s the sort of thing good governance experts often call for on controversial policy issues, and it helps counter what psychologists study people’s responses to types of risk. described as “single action bias”.

Elke Weber, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, whom I interviewed for my book (was published in Australia and will launch next year in the United States), described the concept as a major obstacle to sustainable action on major issues like climate change. Idea that is, in response to uncertain, scary situations, people tend to simplify their decision making and rely on only one action without taking any further action. – often because the first act reduces their feelings of anxiety or vulnerability.

What makes the climate bill interesting to me, as a risk-averse student, is that it builds within its structure a framework for further actions and a trigger. can force that action to continue and build up over time. It sets the repeat action and adjustment as default.

Many other laws do this too, in Australia and in other countries. The United States is also preparing to pass landmark climate legislation that will help the country meet its goal of halving emissions by 2030, mostly tax breaks and other incentives that will build momentum over time. But Australia, after years of politicized “climate war”, seems to have found a model that acknowledges that more will have to be done.

It is not a solution too late because of the belated start of a major transition that the whole world has been slow to embark on.

“This Climate Bill will not be enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement but it is a huge step forward and ushers in a new era,” said Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at the Australian Institute. new sources of cooperation and constructive policymaking. “There is still a lot of work to be done to reverse Australia’s role as the third largest exporter of fossil fuels, but there is hope and momentum that things are finally starting to change.”

Now here are our stories of the week.




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