I have been in the energy and environmental markets for many years and I want to share some of the history of the clean energy sector for clarity purposes given the political toxicity on this issue.

John Howard was Prime Minister from March 1996 to December 2007, and during his time as leader of the Liberal party/National party Coalition government, he introduced and implemented some of the following innovative and progressive policies:

  • 1997 - Australia made a commitment at Kyoto to limit its greenhouse gas emissions to 108 per cent of the 1990 baseline measurement, that is an increase in emissions.
  • To assist with the above commitment, the Howard government created the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO). It was an international first - the world’s first agency dedicated to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 1998 - the agency was given standalone status to provide a “whole of government“ approach to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 2000 -  Gwen Andrews, then head of the AGO, said “Australia is engaged in a consultation process domestically on establishment of a domestic emissions trading regime. If adopted we intend that it would fully integrate with the global regime once the Kyoto protocol comes into force. Such a system would have the effect of pricing carbon and driving emission reductions in and efficient and cost effective way." She goes on to add “we have released for public information, discussion papers on an emissions trading regime. The first covers the boundaries of what a domestic scheme should cover, the second examines options on the issuing of permits,  the third covers the crediting of carbon and the fourth looks at the design of the market.”
  • 2000 - the Howard government commits $400 million in subsidies over four years under the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program to assist Australia deliver a low-cost abatement to partially meet its Kyoto commitment.
  • 2001 - after two years of preparation, the Howard government introduced the Renewable Energy Target, which was a very basic target of two per cent renewables generation by 2010.
  • 2003 - Bob Carr introduced the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme in NSW, one of the world’s first emissions trading schemes, which is to this day still counted against our Kyoto liability. Through this scheme, the price went from $13.50 down to $3.50 per tonne of abatement, the best abatement verifiable and least cost.
  • 2006 -  Howard introduced what is known as the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Program, where the top 500 companies had to report what opportunities they have to conserve energy. They had two years to get ready, so industry was “eased” into it and the first reporting year was 2008.
  • 2007 -  the Howard government implemented the National Greenhouse & Energy Reporting System, requiring the top 500 Australian companies to report what is known as their Scope 1 & 2 emissions, in preparation for emissions trading.
  • At this point the Coalition lost government. Howard had gone to the election brandishing a 15 per cent renewable energy target but was outdone by Rudd who raised the ante up to 20 per cent by 2020.
  • 2010 -  the new Rudd Labor government was to introduce the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, but it did not gain sufficient political support and was deferred.
  • 2011 - Gillard introduced the Carbon Price Mechanism as part of the Clean Energy Futures Package.
  • 2014 - the new Abbott government repealed the Carbon Price.

As a nation, we cannot keep accepting ad hoc policy variations and dysfunction for purely political gain. We keep accepting the politically convenient line dished out to us, “it is our adversarial system,” when at best it is simplistic ideological differences and at worst it is political bastardry of the worst kind putting our economy, jobs, children and our grandchildren at risk. We need to demand strong and real bipartisan action on the issue of climate change.

Cover illustration via Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Let's hope with the new change in Government that Climate change is addressed in a more positive way for the future of the next generations to come.

  • You "believers" deny 34 yrs. of unstoppable climate action failure and disbelief;
    Science has NEVER said and of course never will say that their own CO2 END OF DAYS was; "PROVEN".

    Is this how you want your kids remembering you?

    • Lets just say not only would I be happy to have my kids remember me for taking steps to help their future but I was advocating for change whilst others failed to fight for their childrens legacy.

  • I totally support the reduction of Green house gasses, and I condemn the Government inaction and stupidity, I also would like the next Government o sanction and make law an environmental terrorist, like this Government his, I presume that terrorism will be the right word to all those people against Global warming, and they should be jailed for they approach, because it will kill people on the long run, so a manslaughter charge should apply to those that have been against the Green House Gasses

  • Very informative article seeing the whole chronology in one place.
    However you missed one very important event. Julia Gillard went to an election promising no carbon tax. Then when she changed her mind it was seen as political expedience rather than good policy. I think this has entrenched partisanship and it's hard to see this changing for a while.

  • Why dont we check the facts on global warming, oops sorry climate change.

    With the global warming religion like normal religion we dont let the facts get in the way of a good scare! Also see John Christy who is a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

  • Well done Fiona. A nice concise summary of legislation and action and a beautiful statement on why 'we should demand bipartisan agreement' on issues such as carbon abatement and climate change. I estimate that 70%-90% of Australians are overwhelmingly in support of carbon abatement to help control climate change, but the Abbott government, opposition and various other people (as you say) are allowing politics, personal ambition and sheer bloody mindedness 'get in the way'. I can remember when bipartisanship was more common in politics, but I am afraid it is more about 'point scoring' now rather than good policy. Regards, Kevin.

  • Good article from the author, Fiona. A concise summary of events and a good statement as to why the Australian people deserve bipartisan agreement on issues such as carbon abatement and climate change. Regards Kevin.