The Winning Aussie Strategy: Fighting Back Against Deniers and Talking About Climate Change
If President Obama needs a role model for his stance (or lack thereof) on climate change, he should look no further than the Deputy Leader of Australia’s Green Party, Christine Milne.
In a wide-ranging interview with Climate Progress at the COP 17 climate talks in Durban today, Senator Milne outlined her strategy for helping pass a comprehensive climate bill in Australia this year — even when faced with “a massive campaign against the climate science” that rivals the War on Science being waged in America (see Aussie Scientist: “The Murdoch Media Empire Has Cost Humanity Perhaps One or Two Decades in Battle Against Climate Change.”)
One of the main reasons the Australian Parliament was able to pass a price on carbon, said Milne, is because proponents actually led by talking about climate change. And they didn’t back down or shift their talking points when the attacks picked up.
“We fought back. It was a totally committed strategy,” Milne told Climate Progress. “This is about saving the planet’s climate. That is what we are here for. This is why you need real leadership and not just a response to the populist views echoed from the vested, self interests.”
In other words, the exact opposite strategy of the Obama Administration in 2009 and 2010 as it let a climate bill slip down the legislative priority list and allowed the Tea Party to hijack the issue as a completely bogus War on Freedom (see Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?).
Unlike Obama and Congressional allies of the 2009 climate bill, Milne has explicitly called out the organizations working overtime to derail action on climate policy. The same players funding the Denier Industrial Complex in America — the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heartland Institute and the Murdoch Press, among others — exported their tactics to Australia to battle the climate bill, said Milne:
“Australia has been heavily influenced by some of the major think tanks in the United States that are funded by Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Fossil Fuels interests. We’ve already seen the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heartland Foundation [Institute] supporting Australian politicians going over to the United States and picking up those tactics to the point where one Australian politician was exposed recently for fake websites, a tactic straight out of those kind of foundations.”
“We have seen a heavily funded negative campaign being directed straight into Australia, straight into conservative think tanks and onto the front pages of the Murdoch press.”
“The Murdoch press is a very big problem in Australia. It owns 70% of the print media and has run a massive campaign against the climate science and against the climate pricing policy that we’ve delivered in Australia. And it will continue to do so in the hope that the opposition is elected and the whole thing is repealed. This is a critical time in Australian politics and for the climate.”
Milne lamented the bullying of climate scientists in Australia, many of whom were moved into different facilities after receiving death threats and threats against their families. “It is shocking, and we need to stand up to it,” she said.
The Greens stood up to it by not wavering from their stance on the urgent need to address climate change.
In 2010, when the Labor Party led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard came out of the elections with a hung parliament, they turned to the Greens for support. In exchange for their support, Milne demanded that the government push for a price on carbon by the middle of 2012.
This November, a comprehensive climate bill designed to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050, invest $13 billion in renewable energy, and invest $1.7 billion in sustainable agriculture was signed into law. The price on carbon will be $23 per ton for the top 500 emitters, rising 2.5% per year in the first three years, and then transition into a floating market. After the first five years of implementation, the program will be re-negotiated to account for changes in international policy and scientific findings.
But the battle is not over yet. The opposition party has sworn a “blood oath” to repeal the law if it comes into power after the 2013 elections.
The bill gives Australia more credibility coming into this year’s climate negotiations in Durban. But Milne says she’s still concerned about her country’s push for lax deforestation standards standards that would allow Australia to meet short-term emissions targets through creative accounting, rather than actually doing something. Australia has also balked on supporting a second commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.
The Australian experience is representative of what’s happening around the world. With very little progress on binding global targets for emissions, action will be coming unilaterally from countries. But the cumulative action of those countries don’t get us to the needed emissions reductions scientists say we need to stabilize temperatures at 2 degrees Celsius.
That’s why we need to continue to make bold choices, both domestically and internationally, said Milne.
“There’s a huge disconnect between the science in the politics. The science clearly tells us that global emissions need to peak in 2015 and start coming down after that. We can’t wait until 2020. We will be beyond tipping points.”