Look, we get it: the Budget is fundamentally a little bit boring. It’s a whole lot of pomp and circumstance for the Treasurer – in this case, Josh Frydenberg – to stand up and talk about all the millions and billions of dollars the government is spending, while also hoping no one looks a little too closely at where it’s not spending. But since these are our elected officials deciding where they’re spending *public* money, it’s important to hold them to account and get angry when you need to. And in this case, the spending on climate action should make you really fucking angry.
On the surface level, here’s where we’re at:
- $1.2 billion (over five years) to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, including $209 million to establish the Australian Climate Service
- $50 million (over ten years) for renewables, establishing early stage seed capital funding within the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
- $10.4 million (over four years) to expand certifications for businesses who want to voluntarily reduce emissions
Sounds like some nice big numbers with ‘climate’ attached to them, right? But here’s the catch: none of the spend is on preventing or slowing down climate change. Instead, it’s about better preparing for what climate change will bring (e.g. extreme weather and natural disasters), and a few dangling carrots in case anyone else wants to give slowing down climate change a go.
And then when you dig into the government spending a little further, you see what we’re up against.
- $263 million for carbon capture – a green-sounding technology described as an “expensive failure” by the Climate Council
- More than $600 million for new projects with the word “gas” in them
- $275.5 million for so-called “clean” hydrogen hubs, which aren’t nearly as clean as they’re branded to be, as well as being painfully inefficient forms of energy generation
- Plus $50 million in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the next five years.
“This Budget will fast track climate collapse,” Greens leader Adam Bandt told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“There is $50 billion in handouts and support to coal and gas corporations, and criminally there’s a billion dollars in new money going to new coal and gas projects. In a time of climate crisis, we should be phasing out coal and gas, not opening up more of it.”
This budget is for billionaires and big corporations.
Sure, it’s a budget that ‘invests in people’ — those people are Clive Palmer, Gerry Harvey, and Gina Rinehart. #Budget2021
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) May 11, 2021
The Greens have their eyes set on a coalition government with Labor at the next federal election (almost certainly next year), a feat that seems marginally more achievable now that part-time pollie / full-time shitposter Craig Kelly quit the Liberal party and left Scott Morrison with a one-seat majority.
“With so many issues that matter, like giving money to coal and gas, or locking out refugees, Labor is in lockstep with the Liberals,” Bandt said.
“But what history shows is that if you put the Greens in balance of power, we can push Labor to go further and faster. So the fact that we’re so close to being able to do that gives me some hope.”
For reasons so obvious I won’t go into them, the pandemic booted climate change from being the most topical and immediate threat to human life. But it wasn’t that long ago – less than two years – that the entire east coast of Australia was on fire, and we were all buying face masks to avoid breathing in smoke, rather than COVID-19 particles.
“We only have to go back to the 2020 bushfires raging across 11 million hectares of Australia’s tinder dry landscape for the link between climate change and disaster,” said Sukhbir Sandhu, an associate professor at the University of South Australia and an expert on sustainability and ethics.
“The economic damages of the bushfires were in the billions; the mental and emotional damages continue to unfold.”
As she sees it, the government spending is all on adapting to climate change, rather than trying to slow it down at all.
“While this focus is understandable from a political perspective, it is problematic from a societal perspective,” she said.
“Not showing leadership on global efforts to mitigate climate change has implications for Australia’s disaster reliance.”
The morning after Frydenberg delivered his Budget, Extinction Rebellion were protesting outside Parliament House, blocking every road in. (Thankfully, they were only blocking the roads in; driving the wrong way into the exit was enough to get around them.)
Blocking traffic is kind of Extinction Rebellion’s MO – they make nuisances of themselves to make everyone else stop and listen.
“I just think it’s important to say that we acknowledge that it’s disruptive, and we’re not trying to ruin anyone’s day, we’re not trying to piss anyone off,” Annabel, one of the protesters who asked to only be identified by her first name, told P.TV.
“But at the end of the day, the disruption that we cause here trying to draw attention to this issue is just not even measurable compared to what we’re heading for.”
They might fuck up your morning commute – but they have a point.