Former US Vice President Al Gore’s recent visit to Australia could be a saving grace to the country’s clean energy future. Gore did not only get the support of more than 500 new climate leaders from 24 countries, but more notably he got the backing of controversial mining magnate, Clive Palmer, who leads the Palmer United Party (PUP).
Gore told his followers during the three-day Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Melbourne last week that he believes in Palmer’s genuine intention to help reduce dirty carbon emissions. He added he appreciated the opportunity to meet Palmer to discuss solutions to the climate crisis:
As a national leader, he clearly understands the critical importance of ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come. Mr. Palmer and I don’t agree on everything, but I’m very encouraged by his willingness, and that of his party, to preserve many of the climate policies in Australia.
The announcement elicited media sensations describing the Gore-Palmer meeting as an ‘inconvenient partnership’. But grassroots are more than happy to welcome the alliance.
GetUp, for example, said people fought so hard to keep clean energy initiatives, but all environmental laws are facing the chopping board:
Saving the price on pollution we fought so hard to achieve is unfortunately looking less and less likely – but Palmer’s Senators have announce that they have conditions…
Gore and Palmer reached a compromise on clean energy issues. Palmer vowed to support the Renewable Energy Target (RET), uphold the Clean Energy Finance Corp, and to save the Climate Change Authority. PUP Senators are expected to block moves that will abolish these “clean three.” PUP, however, is not supportive to carbon tax, but instead favours an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Palmer also dismissed the Direct Action plan, which he claims to be a waste of money.
Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), said Palmer has taken a big step towards securing a cleaner, healthier future for all Australians. But she is disappointed his party will support the repeal of the carbon tax, and the current emissions trading scheme structure could go with it.
The carbon price is working now. Pollution from electricity fell by 5% in 2013 alone. If Mr Palmer is serious about Australia tackling climate change, he must be serious about retaining the laws that are already doing the job.
Palmer has three Senate votes which is crucial in balancing the Senate. GetUp said, “ if our new Senate votes with Palmer, this will mean we can still make significant progress towards a clean energy future that will fund renewable energy projects, create jobs and stop Abbott from taking Australia back into the dark ages.”
The Senate will convene on July 7 to determine the fate of the clean energy future.
Gore recruits new climate leaders
Meanwhile, 525 new leaders wre added into Gore’s “climate army”. Gore encouraged them in their resolve to help fight for what matters to them: environment and climate change. The new leadership corps include a wide range of professional demographics, including teachers, communicators, IT experts and technicians, farmers, artists, musicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats, among others as well as youth and students.
It is the fourth training session in Australia that calls for serious concerns on climate reality: severe heatwaves, bushfires, drought, and floods. O’Shanassy said it is no coincidence that the ACF is training leaders: “We need them now more than ever. Over the next few weeks the government will try to bulldoze Australia’s climate laws. While some senators are pushing their support for clean energy, nothing can be taken for granted until the votes are counted on July 7. The carbon price is still in peril and we must keep fighting.”
Gore expects Australia to play a global leadership role on the most pressing climate change issues of this time. He said: “We have more reasons than ever to believe we’re putting ourselves on a path to solve the climate crisis.”
He underscored the initiatives of US President Obama who has committed to cut carbon emissions and encourage global action to tackle global warming. He also noted that China has established emissions trading schemes, along with the European Union and parts of the United States like California. He concluded that Australia is taking action as well:
Two million Australian households now have rooftop solar PV systems, just one example of the rapid growth of clean renewable energy worldwide. Australia and its citizens have long been leaders on this issue. It is my hope that its climate policies will continue to reflect that and serve as an example to the rest of the world.