Originally posted at DanCass & Co. View the original post here.
There has been a lot of head shaking about Al Gore and Clive Palmer’s unanticipated alliance this week but there might well be a lot of good to come from it. In particular it could shift the focus of the climate debate from an unpopular carbon price to popular renewable energy.
Australia’s carbon price is only one part of the Clean Energy Future (CEF) package produced under the minority Gillard government. The Clean Energy Future bills combined the central policy of a carbon price with a raft of ‘complementary measures’, such as the world’s biggest green bank, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
These complementary measures were mostly supports for renewable energy. This unique combination of carbon price and complementary measures was largely due to the contribution of Senator Christine Milne and made the Clean Energy Future agreement a global breakthrough.
The best outcome for the environment and our economy would be if the whole Clean Energy Future package (and the Renewable Energy Target) were kept in place, but there will clearly be a political compromise. It seems that the practical outcome of Palmer’s startling conversion to the climate cause is that his party will save renewables but dump the price on carbon.
Here’s three reasons why true believers should remain optimistic in the face of this inconvenient shift in climate politics:
A renewable-energy led strategy is better politics and can win the climate debate
A super-majority (~75%) of the public support renewable energy. Carbon markets have never had support this high and often have less than 50% support around the world, including Australia. It is far smarter politics to give voice to a pre-existing super-majority of the electorate than it is to try to create a super-majority.
A renewable-energy led strategy is better policy because it builds industrial capacity
Installing solar panels and building wind farms means employing tens of thousands of people to construct and then maintain energy infrastructure. Solar and wind have become cheaper than conventional energy and the more of them that we build, the cheaper they get, which makes this new industrial sector even more profitable, leading to more investment and jobs.
Energy transition is fundamentally accountable to the mass of citizens
Replacing fossil fuel plants with wind farms and solar panels is real and visible. It is easy for people to track progress of this transition, because a mass of people can comprehend the process and even invest in it. Carbon markets are so abstract and complex that there is no way the mass of citizens can understand them enough to hold them accountable.
In 2010, Labor and the Greens were right to build the carbon price plus complementary measures package that they did. But since then solar has become so competitive that it is now virtually unstoppable and has put the conventional energy industry into a ‘death spiral’.
There is now a prospect of organising the millions of solar householders into a new political base for climate action- solar voters.
The anti-climate movement has already refocused its strategy to defeat the rise of renewables, because that is where the positive momentum is. David and Charles Koch – equal 6th on the new Forbes list of the world’s billionaires – sponsor the global campaign against climate action. Over the past two years they have shifted from attacking the climate science to attacking renewables.
In 2014, our best hope is probably to build renewables fast and then use that momentum to come back to the carbon price debate and win it decisively, once and for all.