SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—On its second day in office, Australia’s new conservative government has fulfilled an election promise by shuttering the independent Climate Commission. It also began drafting legislation to abolish a second government body, the Climate Change Authority.
Both organizations were established by the previous Labor administration. The commission was designed to provide the public with an “independent and reliable” source of information about the science of climate change, as well as global policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The authority’s role was to advise the government on the operation of carbon abatement programs and other climate change initiatives. The moves are part of a larger overhaul spearheaded by the new government.
Critics aren’t happy. “These sorts of issues are not going to go away just because we ignore them,” said Ian Chubb, Australia’s chief scientist and a member of the Climate Change Authority, prior to the decisions.
Tim Flannery, an environmental scientist formerly of Macquarie University who led the disbanded Climate Commission, said the decision was misguided, especially in light of an increase in “propaganda” aimed at playing down the potential threats posed by climate change. “I believe Australians have a right to know, a right to authoritative, independent and accurate information,” he said. “We desperately need a well-informed public, especially in areas of complex policy.”
New Environment Minister Greg Hunt said dumping the commission would save AUD $580,000 this fiscal year and $1.6 million in coming years. Its role will be subsumed into the environment department.
The new government is also taking steps to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, tasked with managing AUD $10 billion in renewable energy projects, and to repeal Australia’s carbon tax. In comments on 18 September, Hunt criticized the corporation as a “green hedge fund” that risked taxpayers’ money on speculative ventures.
The newly elected government, under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, instead favors a “Direct Action” fund, capped at AUD $3.2 billion, that would fund carbon sequestration efforts and reimburse businesses for the costs of reducing emissions. (Abbott dismissed climate change as “absolute crap” in 2009.)
Today’s moves follow on the heels of the Abbott’s decision not to appoint a science minister.