Remember climate change? While the issue might have dropped to the farthest reaches of the political radar, the fact remains that climate change remains and at some stage Australia will have to deal with it.
So this week we rekindled the debate with a ‘Climate of the Nation’ event at Ogilvy House.
With John Connor, the CEO of The Climate Institute, presiding over a panel featuring renowned climate change scientist Dr Graeme Pearman, John Scales, the founder and MD of JWs Research, and Essential Media director Peter Lewis, an 80-strong crowd was informed about the seemingly endless saga of public and political engagement and disengagement in one of mankind’s great challenges.
Lewis said that public support for action on climate change reached its zenith in 2007, when there was bipartisan backing for a price on carbon action, but since that point ‘the number of don’t knows’ in his research climbed from the 10s to the 20s and then to the 30s.
He sheeted the blame for the drop-off in support to the paucity of the government’s explanation of the case for climate change action. Scales agreed, citing the fact the government changed its position on a number of occasions.
Pearman, the Australian Academy of Science fellow, said that ‘science tells us more strongly than ever before’ that there was a risk which needed to be managed. In contrast, public belief in man-made climate change had dropped to just 51 per cent, with 35 per cent putting the changing climate down to the natural weather cycle.
He said he believed people had rejected the science ‘because they don’t want their world view to be challenged’.
When asked by Connor whether the coming Federal Election could be accurately depicted as ‘a referendum on the carbon tax’, all panellists disagreed, with Lewis saying research showed it was a referendum on the economy and on the Labor government.
You can check the pollute-o-meter below to see how our political parties rank.
Lewis also said polling showed that one of the legacies of the past few years had been a marked drop in support for all civic institutions.
Scales believed that in the aftermath of the coming election climate-concerned organisations like The Climate Institute needed to stop and rethink the way they tried to deliver the message about the urgent need for action. ‘We need a new look, a new way,’ he said, citing problems with inconsistent and fragmented messaging from climate change groups in the past.
Pearman questioned the basis of the much-publicised target of a maximum of 2 degrees warming, saying that would cause severe water shortages and problems with the coastal plains, while the effect of such an increase on other areas of the natural environment were limited.
For Lewis, public demand for action would only be forced by catastrophic climate events over the next decades, while Connor said he believed the push to renewable energy would be led from outside Australia, through countries no longer wanting buy Australian coal.
Yianni Konstantopoulos, the group managing director of Social@Ogilvy, spoke about the potential benefits and possible pitfalls of social media campaigns on such issues.
Climate change, he said, had become a polarising issue. Social media could help to garner support for action but organisations needed to establish just who their supporters were and just what the organisation wanted them to do before enlisting them.
Connors spoke of the Vital Few campaign which The Climate Institute was currently running. With superannuation being such a source of investment wealth, he said there was a fiduciary duty between superannuation trustees and their members which meant that the trustee had to respond to members’ requests for information.
The focus of the campaign was for members to contact their trustee and request information on the fund’s exposure to investments like coal, which, he said, could carry substantial investment risk because of an expected drop-off in demand through international action to combat climate change. Through that, the Institute hope to pressure superannuation funds to no longer invest in such companies.
Ogilvy Public Relations is a supporter of The Climate Institute.
The event will feature leading luminaries in the areas of climate science, behavioral change, public opinion and communications.
John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute will act as moderator. Sitting on the panel will be Australian Academy of Science fellow and internally renowned climate change scientist, Dr. Graeme Pearman, Founder and Managing Director of JWS Research, John Scales and Director of digital and innovation at Essential Media, Peter Lewis.
Date: Thursday 29th August 1030 – 1200 (morning tea served from 1000)
Location: 72 Christie Street, St Leonards, Sydney, NSW, 2065
RSVP Essential: email@example.com
THE ALP’S POSITION
Food security centres on addressing how Australia can help feed a growing world population while still being able to feed itself. Food Security policies stretch across the portfolios of Agriculture, Trade, Environment, Infrastructure and Regional Development.
National Food Plan
The Coalition has continually criticised Labor for its lack of MPs from rural electorates on the frontbench, suggesting that this has resulted in a neglect of agriculture and rural issues. Yet in May, in the face of this criticism, Labor released its comprehensive National Food Plan, an election commitment from 2010. It is a cross-portfolio initiative providing funding to assist market development (particularly in Asia) and to improve the marketing of Australian produce. The National Food Plan is the centrepiece of Labor’s culture/food security initiatives, and it also includes a Productivity Commission review into further reforms.
Live export trade
Labor temporarily banned the live export cattle trade back in 2011, a decision much-described as a “knee-jerk” reaction to a TV current affairs program. The ban led directly to a market slowdown, supply glut, and crash in cattle prices nationwide. Labor has now committed to continuing the trade while also striving to enhance in-destination animal welfare practices. Labor has promised additional independent oversight of the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) by creating a statutory Inspector-General for Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports.
Labor supports foreign investment in Australian agricultural land, water and agribusiness, though will develop a national register of all sales of rural land and water to foreign buyers.
Labor announced its National Drought Program reform in the 2013-14 Federal Budget and doing so ended the pre-existing Exceptional Circumstances drought assistance and interest-rate subsidies. The reform included $100 million “hardship assistance” welfare for farmers. Labor see these reforms as encouraging farmers to prepare for drought rather than wait for relief.
As part of its Farm Finance package Labor has promised to work with other governments, banks and farmers to develop a consistent national approach to farm debt relief. This includes 16 additional Rural Financial Counsellors nationwide and $420 million over two years for concessional loans for “viable” farmers. Only Queensland, Victoria and NSW have so far formally signed on to the package.
Murray Darling Basin Plan
Labor supports the release of up to 3,200GL of water back to the basin.
Coal Seam Gas
Labor established the Independent Scientific Expert Panel to provide independent advice on environmental impact of proposed CSG projects, and (as a consequence of the persistence of Independent MP Tony Windsor) introduced a ‘Water Trigger’ which provides the Federal Environment Minister with the power to veto large coal mine and CSG projects on the basis of their impact on water resources.
Labor introduced the Carbon Farming Initiative and has since approved 13 systems for generating carbon credits, including several for pig and dairy farmers.
THE COALITION’S POSITION
The Nationals describe themselves as “the party for regional Australia”. Should the Coalition succeed in forming Government those values will come to fore as The Nationals are entrusted with the senior portfolios of Agriculture, Trade and Regional Development. Alongside their leader and Deputy Prime Minister (Warren Truss MP) it can be expected that The Nationals will provide a strong voice around the Cabinet table for regional Australia.
Since 2011 the Coalition has lambasted the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Governments over what they claim is the mishandling of the live export trade. The Coalition remains committed to continuing the live export trade, and while supportive of the ESCAS believes the system has caused damage to Australia’s trading relationships. A Coalition Government has no intention of introducing an Inspector-General for Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports.
The Coalition supports foreign investment in Australian agricultural land, water and agribusiness and has released a discussion paper indicating in-principle support for a national register of all foreign agriculture-related investment; lowering the $244 million price threshold that currently triggers Foreign Investment Review Board assessment of sales to foreign, non-sovereign entities; and the appointment of person with “agricultural expertise” to the Foreign Investments Review Board.
In the face of this Coalition policy however, The Nationals are pushing the Liberal Party to, in Government, reject the sale of GrainCorp to the international agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland. The Nationals believe the sale of GrainCorp’s virtual monopoly on eastern grains storage and transport infrastructure is not in the national interest.
Northern Australia development
The Coalition released a paper outlining a range of potential opportunities to develop Northern Australia by 2030, and has committed to produce a White Paper for Northern Australian development within 12 months if elected. The White Paper will set-out a policy platform for promoting the development of Northern Australia, defining policies for developing the North to 2030, including an outline for the implementation of these policies over the next two, five, ten and twenty years.
The Coalition supports a focus on drought-preparedness rather than mere welfare relief. The Coalition is considering more favourable taxation measures for farmers, including possible changes to the Farm Management Deposit scheme.
The Coalition supports the delivery of Labor’s Farm Finance debt-relief package for farmers
Murray Darling Basin Plan
The Coalition supports the plan, yet disagrees with Labor’s view that the Plan includes an implicit cap on buybacks of irrigators’ water entitlement. The Coalition has promised to legislate to explicitly cap government buybacks of irrigators’ water entitlements at 1,500GL.
Coal Seam Gas
The Coalition is still in the process of finalising its Coal Seam Gas policy. The Coalition supports CSG exploration with landholder permission and a science-based approvals process, and supports 2km buffer zones around towns of more than 1,000 people. The Coalition supports the Independent Scientific Expert Panel, and supported Tony Windsor’s ‘Water Trigger’ amendment when it was introduced to parliament.
The Coalition has promised, as its first action in Government, to repeal carbon pricing. The Coalition will, however, keep the Carbon Farming Initiative under its ‘Direct Action’ policy as means of sequestering carbon, particularly on marginal land.
In 1962, mixed-up confusion was killing Bob Dylan. His head was full of questions, and his temperature rising fast. Forty years later, amid other rising temperatures, mixed-up confusion is confounding Australia’s efforts to respond to climate change.
One the one hand, the case for action seems straightforward. The debate over whether or not anthropogenic climate change is real is over, at least in the scientific community. Treasury modeling of
the potential impacts of climate change makes it clear that taking action on climate change is in Australia’s national interest. Much of corporate Australia agrees with this. And all major political parties advocate taking action on climate change.
So why, according to figures just released in the Climate Institute’s annual survey of Australian attitudes towards climate change, Climate of the Nation, do 65 per cent of Australians believe that there are too many conflicting opinions for the public to be sure about the claims made about climate change? Where does all this confusion come from?
It certainly does not come from a lack of information. If Bob Dylan had a cent for every media mention of climate change, he would probably never have got the tombstone blues, the freight train blues or even the subterranean homesick blues. Australians have had climate change shoved down their throat. Thousands of views have been canvassed, thousands of views have been offered.
Amongst this discordant cacophony, no one has been able to make their message resonate – not the government, not the opposition, not scientists, not climate science ‘deniers’, not NGOs, not community activists, not the private sector.
This has confused the population, and clouded their response to carbon pricing. Only 28 per cent of respondents in the Climate Institute poll (carried out by John Scales for JWS) said they supported the government’s scheme. However, when basic aspects of the legislation are explained, the number jumps to almost 50 per cent. This is not to make a comment on the merits or otherwise of the government’s particular scheme – it rather illustrates the point that people don’t support things they don’t understand. And they don’t understand carbon pricing.
This is fair enough. As public policy goes, it is complex and nuanced. Even the policy wonks struggle to get their heads round it at times. Several popular criticisms of action on climate change stem directly from misunderstandings about how the government’s scheme might work (these criticisms may also be leveled at other schemes). Here are three key sources of confusion:
- It won’t make a difference because Australia is only a small part of global emissions
- It won’t make a difference because industry will move overseas and pollute from there
- It won’t make a difference because we are going to compensate the polluters – so there is no reason for them to act.
There are very good answers to all three points. But this is entering a level of detail beyond the point at which the public would normally engage in public policy. Debunking incorrect information is necessary. But arguing the toss on the details of particular arguments is pointless – people end up confused and disengaged. Instead, advocates of climate change action would do well to focus on some key communication approaches:
- Appeal to the emotional: Use language and imagery that appeals to people’s emotional rather than intellectual side. This is something marketers have honed for decades.
- Use third-party advocates: There is no academy of science in the world that disputes the science. Other voices lend credibility to your arguments.
- Point to peers: Highlight what others, faced with the same problem, have done. The vast majority of countries have some form of measure in place to combat climate change.
Talk about the alternative: Instead of allowing the debate to focus on the intricacies of different schemes, focus on the costs of inaction.
Make it local: Talk about the impact of climate change on insurance bills and front lawns.
A recent poll by Fergus Hanson for the Lowy Institute showed that 38 per cent of Australians felt they had become ‘more concerned’ about climate change since the debate in Australia began. If this concern is to be harnessed into support for action, we need to do a much better job of telling the story, and a much better job of debunking the myths. “Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean,” Bob Dylan once remarked, “sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean”.
By Andrew Ure.
“No”, comes the reply from Richard E. Grant, “we’re here”.
In the storm of words around the introduction of the carbon tax, Australians would be forgiven for being a little lost too.
You might think the major parties don’t agree on anything when it comes to climate change. But they do. In fact, they agree on a lot (though they might not admit it).
For starters, both parties argue that climate change is real, and that Australians need to act. The same cannot be said for many voters of both persuasions.
Crucially, both parties have made an unconditional commitment to reduce Australia’s emissions by the same amount (5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020).
This is significant in two ways: firstly, they agree on the scale of emissions reductions that Australia should undertake (at least at a minimum); secondly they agree that there is a degree of climate change action that Australia should take, irrespective of what happens elsewhere.
Moreover, while you could live under a rock and still know that the Coalition opposes the government’s carbon pricing mechanism, few people realise that both parties share their support for particular approaches to reducing emissions.
The Coalition will likely release more details closer to an election, but based on its direct action plan and public statements, and the government’s public record, we can build a picture of what is likely to survive regardless of the colour of the government.
Let’s start with renewable energy. Again, both sides are in furious agreement that Australia should encourage the development of the sector through promoting a renewable energy target. They even agree on the amount: 20 per cent of Australia’s energy supply should come from renewable sources by 2020.
Of course, there is some nuance, with the Coalition seeking to carve out a special role for larger projects. But this is a relatively minor difference.
Energy efficiency is another area that is likely to remain a key priority whoever wins the next election. It’s a no-brainer: reducing energy bills and reducing emissions at the same time. This is particularly so in the building sector. After the initial capital investment, many energy efficiency projects become cash-positive within the first few years of operation. It’s a win for owners, a win for tenants and win for the construction industry – oh, and the climate.
Speaking of common ground, land management is another area where both the big parties can be seen shuffling uncomfortably next to each other. Estimates of the mitigation potential of reducing emissions from farming and forestry vary, but may be very significant, and both parties are supportive of efforts in this space. The Coalition estimates that soil carbon measures could represent 85 million tonnes of annual CO2 abatement potential; the government’s carbon farming initiative has been one of the more popular components of its Clean Energy Future package.
Under its ”contracts for closure” program, the government is seeking to support the closure of inefficient power stations. The Coalition’s proposed ”emissions reductions fund” has a provision to do precisely the same thing. The list goes on.
This is a good thing. A recent study by Mercer identified climate policy uncertainty (both international and national) as a significant source of risk for investors over the next 20 years. There is not going to be any certainty over carbon pricing for a while yet – but there is likely to be policy continuity in other areas.
So although the fight over carbon pricing will dominate the airwaves over the next few weeks, it is important to remember that there is a lot more to Australian climate change policy than carbon pricing.
A lot of bathwater will be thrown around in the next few days, but there is good reason to believe that, no matter where this all ends up, there will still be a baby – of sorts – sitting in the bathtub, wondering what on earth just happened.
By Andrew Ure.
Sydney, November 10, 2011: OgilvyEarth, Ogilvy PR’s sustainability communications practice, has today announced its Australian partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an international NGO that operates the only global climate change reporting system for companies.
OgilvyEarth and CDP share a collective focus on supporting organisations to demonstrate leadership by taking action to measure, manage, reduce and communicate action on their environmental impacts. Now, with the recent passage of bills for a carbon price through the Australian Parliament, there is a growing impetus for organisations to measure, manage and disclose climate change information to their investors, purchasers, customers and other stakeholders.
OgilvyEarth’s Managing Director, Sarah Cruickshank, said “Ogilvy Earth is delighted to have a formal partnership with the CDP in Australia. Like the CDP, Ogilvy Earth is committed to reducing the environmental impact of Australian businesses, and rigorous measurement and disclosure is a vital ingredient in delivering improved sustainability outcomes.
Along with the CDP, Ogilvy Earth works closely with a range of other not-for-profit organisations to help bring them together with some of the nation’s largest organisations for the purposes of achieving the best possible environmental and social outcomes.”
The CDP has the largest database of corporate climate change information and acts on behalf of over 550 institutional investors globally (including 45 investors in Australia and New Zealand) with more than US$71 trillion in assets under management. 73% of ASX100 companies and 50% of ASX200 companies disclosed climate change information through the CDP in 2011.
The CDP released its Australia & NZ 2011 Report this week at Carbon Expo 2011 in Melbourne. The report revealed that only 4% of ASX200 and NZX50 responding companies reported that carbon pricing was a high impact risk to their business, while overall 33% of responding companies rated the risk as medium or above. The report is the sixth annual assessment of climate change disclosures made by ASX200 and NZX50 companies to investors through the CDP.
James Day, CDP’s Australia & NZ Director said, “CDP is delighted to be working in partnership in Australia with OgilvyEarth, one of Australia’s leading sustainability communications agencies. CDP hopes our partnership will result in more Australian companies realising the business benefits of high quality climate change communications with their employees, investors, suppliers and other stakeholders. For example, companies this year have reported through CDP that behavioural change initiatives typically offer fast payback periods of 1-3 years. Despite this, in Australia & NZ only 9% of ASX200 and NZX50 companies reported they were undertaking emission reduction initiatives relating to behavioural change.”
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an independent not-for-profit organisation providing a transformative global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share climate change and water information. Over 3,000 organisations across the world’s largest economies now report their greenhouse gas emissions and assessment of climate change risk and opportunity through CDP, in order that they can set reduction targets and make performance improvements. This data is gathered on behalf of 551 institutional investors, holding US$71 trillion in assets. CDP now holds the largest collection globally of self-reported climate change data. For more information visit www.cdproject.net
OgilvyEarth is the sustainability communications advisory practice of Ogilvy PR Australia, a joint venture between Ogilvy PR Worldwide and the STW Communications Group, Australia’s largest marketing content and communications services group.