POLITICS

Climate Institute To Shut Down, But Not Without One Hell Of A Political Parting Shot

'(Australian politics) is frankly embarrassing.'

09/03/2017 11:18 AM AEDT | Updated 09/03/2017 2:21 PM AEDT
Graham Tidy/Fairfax
Outgoing Climate Institute CEO John Connor

CANBERRA -- Australia's first climate change-focused think-tank and lobby group is shutting up shop but not without some stinging barbs for "embarrassing" politicians trading in "toxic" and "hyper-partisan" politics in dealing with climate policy.

And as the Climate Institute closes down after 12 years for lack of funding, outgoing CEO John Connor tells The Huffington Post Australia that climate facts are needed more than ever, despite it being "unsexy" "hard yakka".

"Some say facts are for losers in this current climate. Facts have a funny way of just hanging around and going back to bite you," he told HuffPost Australia.

Australian politics simply cannot maturely debate climate change, according to Connor.

"It is frankly embarrassing," he told HuffPost Australia.

"We have alternative clean energy technologies at a scale and speed that are probably going to have to be the only solution we actually have to our increasingly brittle electricity system.

Jason South/Fairfax
Divers looking at bleached coral on the outer Great Barrier Reef off Port Douglas

"The uncertainly and the squabbling is the biggest threat to energy security, jobs and prices. And those three words; cost of living."

But, in short political cycles, the debate continues over emissions trading or intensity schemes and whether they constitute a carbon tax bogeyman. Connor insists the business community and a substantial party of the community, AKA voters, have moved on.

"It is embarrassing that Australia is stuck in these trenches," Connor said. "You have some in the hard right and I think some flailing politics strategists who are seeking to relive the red meat days of the carbon price scare campaigns of 2011 and 2012 before the price began, but also seeking to drive wedges there."

"Peta Credlin belled the cat on that very substantially recently when she admitted it was not a carbon tax and it was an exercise in brutal politics in trying to frame this as a hip pocket verses the environment issue."

Yes, in case you missed it, the former Chief of Staff to Tony Abbott as Prime Minister recently raised eyebrows by admitting the climate change policy under Julia Gillard's Labor government was never a carbon tax. It was an election winning tactic that worked in 2010 and it is still being used.

"The reality is that it is just not sustainable," Connor tells HuffPost Australia. "It is an economic issue of the highest order now."

"There is a gap in the policy and the politics in the middle ground. I will trust that that will be filled."

Foundational support for the Climate Institute dried up some time ago, and despite pleas for investment and public donations, it will end on the 30th of June.

Connor is calling on philanthropists, business and investors to step up.

"We are kind of in unsexy territory in producing research and trying to get people together," he said.

"This does not get people on the streets or rouse their beating hearts in lots of ways because it is hard yakka.

"But I think this is where we do need philanthropists, and business and others to understand that a good investment portfolio should have an investment in this sort of advocacy and should be doing it at scale.

"We have had a couple of great supporters doing that, but it simply has not been at the scale we need."


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