Analysis and Commentary

Bowen to develop decarbonisation plans, but still no industry plan

Analysis and Commentary

By Peter Roberts

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy has celebrated a year of achievement on tacking climate change, lambasted the climate ‘fantasy’ of the former Morrison government and outlined his next task – the creation of sector specific decarbonisation plans.

In a major speech to the Clean Energy Council Bowen said he would work with portfolio ministers to create six net zero sectoral plans that were ‘robust, ambitious but achievable, and accepted by the broader community’.

Bowen said: “And so, I can announce today that we will begin developing plans for: Electricity and Energy, Industry, the Built Environment, Agriculture and Land, Transport and Resources.

“Developing each plan will be a joint effort between me and my Cabinet colleagues: Ed Husic when it comes to Industry and the Built Environment, Murray Watt and Tanya Plibersek when it comes to Agriculture and Land, Madeleine King on Resources and Catherine King on Transport.”

Bowen told the CEC that the government would be working with industry, the climate movement, experts, unions and the community to develop sectoral decarbonisation plans.

“I’m also delighted that last week in Devonport, Australia’s climate and energy ministers unanimously agreed to lean in and work collaboratively and closely with our Government on delivering the plan.

“Each of my Cabinet colleagues will also work closely with their ministerial council colleagues in the work.”

As laudable as Bowen’s initiatives undoubtedly are, for a government supposedly dedicated to Australia as a country that makes things, putting climate change first, and industry policy second – rather than the other way round – is a great disappointment.

Those of us who have been calling for the development of a national industry plan will now have to settle for industry planning tacked on to the government’s focus on climate change, with all the other issues that need attention to reverse manufacturing’s decline the subject of continuing ad hoc planning.

As many have argued in @AuManufacturing news, Australia does not have an overarching plan for industry, nor the institutions and mechanisms to achieve it.

Instead we have individual ministers and myriad departments and bodies each operating with minimal co-ordination towards a generalised goal of ‘making things’.

Where Bowen’s initiatives falls short for industry is that it again leave us without a coherent policy to address the challenges of sluggish productivity and wage stagnation, let alone the transformation of our outdated industrial structure.

This is not to say that Bowen’s speech did not mark a sea change from the climate denial and go slow on decarbonisation of the nine years of the Coalition – it did.

As Bowen said: “As you know, Australia’s currently lodged 2050 plan is a fantasy, invented by the Morrison Government.

“It assumes future technologies will do the heavy lifting without any effort or investment to bring them about.”

Bowen listed 23 achievements made since he delivered the first Annual Climate Statement a year ago including that Australia:

  • Lifted emission reduction targets by half, from 26 per cent to 43 per cent
  • Legislated to bring the Climate Change Authority back to play a real and meaningful role
  • Put net zero in the objectives of the CEFC and ARENA Acts
  • Legislated a $20 billion Rewiring the Nation fund
  • Finalised the law allowing offshore wind development in Australia
  • Agreed a sensible capacity investment scheme with the states, which will ‘unleash at least six gigawatts of dispatchable renewable power and $10 billion of investment’
  • Beefed up the Safeguard Mechanism, requiring net emissions reductions from our 215 biggest emitters of five per cent a year,
  • Released the National Electric Vehicle Strategy and passed the electric vehicle discount (sales of electric vehicles have risen from two percent of the market to close to nine per cent)
  • And budgeted $2 billion to the vital Hydrogen Headstart programme.

As Bowen said: “Apart from that, it has been a quiet year. But we are just getting started. There is so, so much more to do. I’m pleased but not yet satisfied.”

In comparison to this list of achievements Ed Husic has had a busy year also.

But what is not happening is for industry goals to be front and centre of Cabinet and the focus of the federal government as so obviously are climate change and energy.

Meanwhile perhaps Australia really is on the way to becoming a nation that makes things again – but anecdote aside, the hard evidence for this is pretty hard to find.

Further reading:
A new deal plan for manufacturing – we learned we don’t have an industry policy by Lance Worrall
Election 22 the real issues – the industry policy dog that didn’t bark by Roy Green

Picture: Chris Bowen (centre)

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