The other tipping point

The other tipping point

At CCL Australia’s September conference CCL Australia chair and founder, Rod Mitchell, spoke of the tipping point at which most of the world would get on board to stop climate change. He said that like the fall of the Berlin Wall it would happen quite suddenly, and it would come as a surprise. Here he reminds us that our job is to bring that tipping point closer.

Well we’re not there yet but a lot of things have happened in the past 3 months that bring us closer to that point.

First was the adoption of a carbon fee and dividend policy in Canada.

Next came the Wentworth by-election which put climate policy firmly back on the campaign agenda and then elected a climate-literate Dr Kerryn Phelps to replace Malcolm Turnbull as MP for Wentworth.

Then came announcements from 3 big mining and fossil fuel companies decrying government inaction and advocating a carbon tax.

Next came a tangible result of our lobbying – the launch of the Australian Climate Dividend Plan (ACDP), a carbon fee and dividend policy that results from economic modelling by Richard Holden and Rosalind Dixon. It makes a powerful case for carbon tax that brings a climate dividend to more than three-quarters of Australian taxpayers of voting age.

The Victorian election showed a big shift towards progressive politics and support for a government that has a strong renewable energy target and has advocated for bolder climate policies at Federal level.

And the Irish Parliament is debating carbon fee and dividend to address climate change in Ireland.

And just last week there were five breakthroughs;

  • Rebekha Sharkie, Federal MP (Centre Alliance) joined with Dr Kerryn Phelps in announcing a Parliamentary Friends of Climate Action (PFoCA). We have been talking with MPs about such a Parliamentary Friends group over the past two years.
  • Both MPs helped launch the “No Time for Games” initiative of Doctors for Environment the next day!
  • The next day we got the news of a bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, introduced to the US Congress by Republican and Democrat representatives. This bill is very close to CCL’s fee and dividend policy.
  • Our economics advisor Warwick Smith met with key people in Canberra, including a senior economic adviser in Parliament
  • The Students 4 Climate Action rallies around the country added a new compelling voice to community demands for policies to address climate change
  • Diverse faith and community leaders, climate scientists and doctors joined forces with the Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism and CCL right in the heart of Parliament House in Canberra to provide an urgent climate briefing to politicians – The Human Face of Climate Change.

This is a remarkable series of events.  The fact that they are coming so close together indicates that momentum is building and that the tide has turned. After years of heading into powerful headwinds CCL has some wind at our back and can briefly enjoy a sense of significant achievement.  We can even begin to look forward to the day when governments around the world are furiously working to outdo each other with climate solutions. But that is another tipping point and there is lots more to be done!

Very importantly, we can now speak the words ‘carbon tax’ with some confidence that it is making a comeback from its past demonisation and consequent taboo status. In their ACDP report, Richard Holden and Rosalind Dixon name carbon fee and dividend as a ‘Pigouvian’ tax, one which puts a price on social ‘bads’ and enables us to reduce tax on social ‘goods’. They also talk up the dividend approach as it treats individuals as

“rights bearers, entitled to share in the benefits as well as the costs of the Australian social compact, not simply supplicants seeking discretionary forms of economic support from governments.”

We now need to talk up carbon pricing as a fundamental underpinning for reversing climate change. We know that even 100% renewables will not be enough to stop climate change and that taxing all greenhouse emissions to drive the transition to a zero-carbon economy is essential.

It is a positive tax, one that can transform our economy and move us towards a society that works for people and planet. We can now proudly proclaim that “the tax is back!”

Rod Mitchell

Rod Mitchell is CCL Australia chair and founder, is sharing the role of WA Coordinator with Joyce Erceg, co-hosts the Great Southern Area CCL groups and is the CCL Parliamentary Liaison for Rick Wilson MP.