Talking point: Two steps back

Written by on 5 August 2014

It is a sobering thought that all groundbreaking legislation, no matter how many people may have demonstrated or marched in support of it, can be repealed.
Technically, long-awaited reforms such as the smoking ban, equal marriage, even the establishment of the Scottish Parliament could be scrapped if someone could muster the necessary votes to get it through parliament.
However unlikely these reversals may seem, on the subject of climate change, Australia is a reminder that it can be done.
The country’s right-wing coalition, led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was elected last year – in part based upon a promise to scrap the carbon tax, a charge aimed at penalising big polluters and after legislation passed through the Senate, he was able to say, “you voted to scrap the tax and today the parliament finally listened.”
He said the carbon pricing scheme, which came into effect two years ago, was a “useless, destructive tax” but was warned by opposition leader, Labor’s Bill Shorten, that Abbott was “sleepwalking Australia towards an environmental and economic disaster”.
Closer to home, the UK Government – which has been under constant internal pressure over its green credentials – saw Greg Barker, one of most high profile advocates of greener policies within the Tory party, leaving the Government in the most recent reshuffle.
However, in one key area, Ed Davey, the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, stood firm. Taking the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, he ruled out changes to the Fourth Carbon Budget, saying any changes would be “premature”, it would seem to draw a line, for now at least, under tensions between Davey and Chancellor George Osborne – who wanted to see less spending on green initiatives.
All these interventions count. While in Scotland particularly great pride is taken in the targets and aims to tackle climate change, shift to cleaner energy sources and develop a more sustainable way of living – it is equally as important to remember we are not alone, there are other countries across the world that share similar aims.
Next year in Paris, leaders will gather for the UN’s climate summit, with the hope that a real and meaningful agreement on action can be reached. 
While there are some signs that this can be achieved, with an intervention from Barack Obama probably the most significant, whenever a country like Australia starts backpedalling it should be cause for alarm.
The very real danger is that other world leaders could see this as the sign to take their foot off the pedal when they should in fact be redoubling their efforts.  

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