The Finkel Review, fossil fuels and fake climate policy: What price the planet?

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Far from signalling the end of the "climate wars", the Finkel Review furthers the Coalition's fossil fuel politics and fake "energy crisis" agenda, writes Lyn Bender.

LET'S NOT be fooled again.

The commissioning of the Finkel Review is much about fossil fuel politics and little about climate change.

The agenda has been framed as an "energy crisis". The media is calling it, ironically, an end to the "climate wars".

This has a dramatic ring and goes well with the fake, hyped, energy security crisis. Lest we forget the climate criminality of former PM Abbott who waged his war on climate action with his "axe the tax" mission.

It's time we stopped electing lying, cheating politicians, who seek only to exploit and destroy our amazing world. We need leaders and politicians who passionately and devotedly love this earth.

The Abbott Government’s removal of the carbon price is being paid for by all of us. The wholesale price of power has doubled since the carbon tax was dismantled. A study has found that the carbon price had helped curb emissions.

Finkel’s focus is on energy as the problem but clean energy is the solution. Coal is the problem. Since the South Australian blackout, the Coalition has sought to frame yet another extreme weather event as irrelevant. The wind may have blown down multiple transmission towers but Turnbull denounced an overambitious clean energy target as the culprit. This was pure political humbug.

The elephant in the room is climate-induced extreme weather events.  

Prime Minister Turnbull, desperately trying to stave off his downward fall, claimed (from Crikey):

'That several State Labor governments – not just in South Australia – had set “extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic” targets for renewable energy use. “Targeting lower emissions is very important but it must be consistent with energy security.”'

Soon after this dark night in late September 2016, the idea of flogging an energy security meme to avoid the politically dangerous climate security meme was conceived and presented to COAG in October 2016. Nine months later, in June 2017, like an newborn infant, the Finkel Review emerged. Like many new births, it has been hailed with hope by some.

But glaring defects are apparent. Its limitations can’t be entirely blamed on Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who was hamstrung by the terms of reference below:

'The purpose of the Review is to develop a national reform blueprint to maintain energy security and reliability in the National Electricity Market, for consideration by the Council of Australian Governments through its Energy Council.'

After many months, I have begun to emerge from a dark night of the soul. I was not alone in that black place. The removal of Abbott only led to more climate cover-ups from the great disappointer, Malcolm Turnbull. "Direct Action" was a sham. On top of that, the Coalition Government spruiked coal and hailed its century-old greatness. Scott Morrison shamelessly and proudly brought a lump of coal into the House of Representatives and the Adani coal mine is being half-heartedly interrogated by Federal Labor, approved and applauded by Queensland Labor, and is the darling "jobs and growthsham of the Federal Government.

Activists I have spoken to had fallen into despair when Donald Trump was elected, with his promise to sabotage the U.S. and global climate action and to renege on the Paris Accord.

When you emerge from a profound grieving crisis you don't go back to the place you were before. I had been deeply despairing and alarmed about our headlong descent into climate chaos as we continued on our journey of denial. Emerging from the dark night into a thin dawn light, I have renewed my intention to do what I can. As Clive Hamilton has said in his books, Requiem for a Species and Defiant Earth, we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it. We will lose the wonderfully hospitable climate. Like bad tenants, we have managed to trash the atmosphere, the land and the oceans in a few centuries of industrialisation. We will have to adjust massively to what has been irretrievably lost, but we must fight to save what we can.

That is where we are at.

This gang of climate denying Liberal Party politicians, like the proverbial leopards, have not changed their spots — they have merely painted over some of them. Now the Liberal Government (against a weak Labor Opposition) operates under a thin disguise while giving the nod to coal, short-term business interests and the far right within and outside its party.

We should not be lulled. We are all maintaining everyday climate denial. We do it each time we fail to factor in the impact of our rising CO2 emissions. Andrew Simms in The Guardian urges us to call out everyday climate denial. Surely the piece de resistance of climate denial is Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, saying old coal will not be punished and new coal power is not ruled out of the energy mix with the "clean" energy targets.

Let us call out fake climate policy and political climate denial.

Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Canada's Simon Fraser University, has devised a simple checklist for checking if a politician is lying to you.

Checklist for lying politicians

The politician is lying if:

  1. the politician has a target but no effective policies to achieve those targets;
  2. the politician has targets and policies, but no strong regulation of the policies; or
  3. the politician has a target and strong regulated policies, but a bunch of loopholes.

How does the Finkel Review stand up to this checklist?

  • The giant loopholes are coal, coal and more coal.
  • The review is only a recommendation.
  • Targets are low and pushed far out into the future.
  • Governments can approve any number of coal mines.

Is the Finkel Review even a climate manifesto? It has the imprimatur of the chief scientist but is it more political than scientific? Some are saying at least it's a plan where no plan existed. But is it an effective plan? Or is it an attempt at a fake political fix?

Barnaby Joyce and the Abbott squad want coal into the future. The target won’t get us to Paris and Finkel, on the ABC's Q&A program, advised Labor's Mark Butler not to change (raise) the target rapidly as people want "predictability". Yet climate science tells us we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and reduce emissions rapidly if we have any hope of limiting warming to below two degrees.

There is a meagre annual $90 off the household electricity bill for those who fear the cost of pricing carbon. What price the planet?

This politically centred review is a political fix for Turnbull.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says the plan in the Finkel report gets Australia nowhere near the temperature target commitment it made in Paris and that it "provides a long-term lifeline to coal and gas".

ALP Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler has said:

“Well, you can't have a clean energy target that boosts coal-fired power production. It's simply an oxymoron … Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott appear to be setting that as a pre-condition for the government adopting the recommendations of Dr Finkel.” 

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts has called the review a disaster. He doesn't believe emissions need to be reduced or that CO2 produces warming.

We have to vote in better politicians. We should be inspired by Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Jeremy Corbyn. We need to give up our addiction to abusive deadbeat politicians, and vote for leaders who love and do not rape this world.

As French President Emmanuel Macron declared:

“We all share the same responsibility. Make our planet great again.”

Lyn Bender is a professional psychologist. You can follow Lyn on Twitter @Lynestel.

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