“If at first you don’t succeed”
Climate change doesn’t much matter to voters even though they (naturally) accept the science
The annual Climate institute survey shows that 75% of the public agree with the concept of climate change. On the other hand it doesn’t rate as a top 3 issue with voters. For those of us that think it’s a relatively urgent issue the challenge is how to make it front of mind for voters.
Power prices are going up. There will be a large blame game as to why. The anti renewables camp will say it is the fault of renewables, the pro renewables camp will say it’s the fault of lack of certainty around energy policy preventing the investment in new supply. This is not an easy argument to win as the facts cant be reduced to a simple slogan.
Do we need a national political champion that sees how decarbonization can be turned into an election winning issue? No such person is in evidence at the moment. Kevin Rudd was the last such person but perhaps because he saw foresaw the political strength of the “big fat tax on everything” he dropped it, and having played the public for a fool paid the consequence.
Of course, it was a leading issue in the Gillard Govt and the experience has clearly left a sour taste in the “prgamatists” that drive ALP strategy. No leading politician since has been prepared to back climate change as a front of mind election issue.
A variety of NGOs from the CEC, the Climate Institute, Beyond Zero, IGCC, Climateworks are all out there but would it be better if there was an umbrella organization, better funded which undertook more direct action? Our view of direct action means reaching voters directly, via advertising, social media, but also influencing the conventional media. Making the jobs case. Making the lo
Or is it better just to stay with the incremental approach and simply allow the facts to gradually become clear? In the end incrementalism will get us there but only over time.
The public in Australia increasingly supports the concept that global warming is occurring
The Climate Institute published its annual survey of attitudes towards Australia on climate change, and this didn’t perhaps get the attention it deserved. There is a lot of detail in the survey, and of course the answer to survey questions and the conclusions drawn always depend on the exact question asked and the survey methodology.
The Climate Institute’s annual survey consists of a 2000 person Galaxy Research Poll in the first week of August with a 2.2% error margin and qualitative focus group interviews conducted in Brisbane, Melbourne and Newcastle.
About ¾ of Australians agree that Climate Change is occurring. This number has been climbing for the past five years.
However it wasn’t an election issue. Both major parties ran completely dead on climate change. And for good reason. The Coalition knew it was weak on the “bad boy” image and the ALP was still licking its wounds from having its butt kicked from West Australia to Queensland by Tony Abbott hammering the “big tax on everything” and “Julia’s a liar” images.
Essential Research found the economy and healthcare the big issues
According to vote compass, an opt in survey of ABC viewers, in the big three States, the environment only rated as a top 3 issue in Victoria.
Figure 3 Election issues: Source ABC vote compass May 2016
A Roy Morgan survey of the problems facing Australia and the world rated climate change at just 7% a long way below the economy at over 40%
Interestingly though for the first time in a number of years when Australians were asked the main problems facing the world they nominated the Environment and Climate Change as No 1 @ 25% just pipping the economy.
Coalition response – turn climate change into a cost of living issue
Facing the fact that the majority of the people believe in climate change, the Coalitions’ response seems to be to turn it into an economic issue. Ie Climate change means renewable energy means less reliability and higher prices. However they are still left with the intellectually indefensible position of having signed up for COP 21 without being able to demonstrate how that will be achieved. This is a weakness that can be exploited but probably won’t swing many votes.
ALP response wedge turnbull
The ALP’s response is to cast the Prime Minister as someone that believes in the problems Climate Change causes but is powerless to do anything about it because he does not have enough Cabinet Authority. Turnbull has recently been wedged on this issue in a textbook example of wedging. When a politician is effectively wedged it creates an impression of weakness or lack of guile. You didn’t see Bob Hawke or John Howard getting wedged all that often.
The ALP has also presented a 50% renewable energy by 2030 policy. The Coalition expressly rejects that this is achievable. So in a sense that is where the crux of the debate lies. State ALP Govts in Victoria and QLD have started their own policies to move towards the Federal ALP target.
If you think, as I do, that execution and management matter, then the appointment of Simon Corbell as advisor to the Victorian Govt is an extremely positive sign. Based on the ACT’s track record we can expect financially astute, progressive policy to be advanced in a straightforward and steady fashion with few errors. If it goes well in Victoria it will build very strong national support. So we see the Victorian legislated policy as a key driver for public support. Of course its not enough on its own.
How to lift climate change up the list of issues that matter?
Your analyst is more interested in issues than political loyalty. We see climate change as a large, going on for existential, global problem and believe that Australia as a wealthy, high emitting reasonably large country has a role to play. From that perspective the challenge is to lift climate change out of the abstract “its happening but it doesn’t matter” into the “its happening and I’m going to vote for someone to do something about it” category. The question is how to achieve this.
Some questions for activists to consider
Should this be a party driven top down approach a la that taken by the Greens or should it be a bottom up approach in marginal electorates driven by being able to show to marginal voters why they should think about climate change?
How can the link be made from climate change as an “abstract future” issue to something that requires immediate vote driving action?
What would it take to get the ALP’s 50% renewable by 2030 policy as a vote winner instead of a “we’ve got the greenies covered” policy not to be talked about. The ALP went to some lengths in the last election not to put its 50% renewable policy in front of voters. For instance we think extending the SREC benefit to household storage and allowing utility scale storage to gain REC credits would be vote winning policies.
In short how can we get climate change on the front page in a positive way?
Is it even a good idea to spend scarce resources on Federal policy or would it be preferable to assist State Governments that have gone down the higher renewables path and get them to do even more?
David Leitch is principal of ITK. He was formerly a Utility Analyst for leading investment banks over the past 30 years. The views expressed are his own. Please note our new section, Energy Markets, which will include analysis from Leitch on the energy markets and broader energy issues. And also note our live generation widget, and the APVI solar contribution.