In early December, delegates representing Young Liberal branches across the state voted overwhelmingly in approval of a motion recognising the reality of climate change and the need for action.
The NSW Liberal party’s youth wing recognises this a particularly important issue facing our generation, as our generation will have to face the risks brought about by climate change.
It is the duty of government to be awake to the challenges of the future. As the great conservative thinker Edmund Burke recognised, current generations hold the present in trust for the future. And climate change is a significant risk that will affect the future of my generation.
The climate change debate in Australia has unfortunately become a bit of a poisoned well. While Boris Johnson’s Conservatives went to the UK election with a commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, any talk of climate change can spell the death of a Liberal leader in Australia.
It has become divisive and transformed into a tribal marker between those who are “woke” and those who are “anti-PC”.
It shouldn’t be this way. It should not be a matter of conservative versus progressive. It should be a matter of science and economics.
Liberals should not surrender the debate to those on the left who would use this challenge to push an anti-market, big-government agenda that would do great damage to our economy and hurt those who can least afford it.
As the prime minister has rightly said, we do not need to choose between a strong economy and action on climate change. We don’t need to choose between low electricity prices, a decent standard of living for all and ensuring a liveable planet in the future.
The science and the economics tells us we can mitigate the effects of climate change through more efficient energy use and allowing greater investment in more efficient renewable energy generation. It is already the case that renewables are on track to become cheaper and more efficient than traditional fossil fuel sources.
This is why calls for the government to directly own and operate coal-fired power stations is misguided. Not only is it illiberal – calling for the socialisation of power – but it makes zero economic sense for the government to be using taxpayer money to make a long-term investment in current coal technology that will be less efficient and more expensive than other alternatives in the future.
The government shouldn’t pick winners – whether solar, wind, hydro, nuclear or coal. It should create the framework within which there is investment certainty for the private sector to develop and invest in the most efficient technologies.
In short, we need policy settings that will provide the investment certainty we’ve been lacking in order to allow the market to work.
Government should ensure that Australia is well placed to take advantages of innovation in the clean energy space. Good policy will ensure we keep energy costs low, using the most efficient technology available.
Government should incentivise the energy sector and private sector generally to find innovative ways to reduce their emissions without heavy-handed taxes, extravagant subsidies and heavy-handed bans on mining that will have disastrous economic consequences and hurt low and middle-income Australians.
Government can do this through tax break incentives and asset write offs, as well as smart public investment in research and development.
Let coal, nuclear, wind, solar, gas, pumped hydro, hydrogen and other technologies compete to be the cheapest and most efficient. If we have the right policy settings that encourage innovation and provide certainty to the market, we will see the market picking cheaper, lower emissions technology.
It’s time to stop turning climate change into a climate culture war and time to start pursuing good policy which will ensure we have low energy costs and use the most efficient, low-emissions technology available.
Our future depends on it.
Chaneg Torres is the president of the NSW Young Liberals
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