The Greens and CPRS

The major parties and conservative media spend a lot of time cynically deflecting blame for a decade of inaction on climate change. Here’s what really happened.

For the past ten years, we’ve been asked the same question: “If the Greens care so much about climate change, why did you knock off Labor’s CPRS in 2009?”  Here’s the answer: 

2009: The CPRS was bad climate policy

We voted against the CPRS because it was bad policy that would have locked in failure to take action on climate change. 

According to Treasury modelling, under the CPRS there would have been no reduction in emissions for 25 years. It gave billions in handouts to coal companies and big polluters, while it locked in emissions targets that failed the science. 

It would not have led to any change in behaviour by big polluters, while any future attempt to strengthen the scheme would have resulted in billion dollar compensation payouts to big polluters.

It gave a false impression it was going to actually do something – in fact, Kevin Rudd’s own climate change advisor warned it could be better to go back to the drawing board.

2010: Greens-led climate action

Just months later, we worked with a more collaborative Gillard Labor government and Independent MPs to introduce world-leading climate legislation. We fought for – and achieved – a much better outcome.

This Greens-led package included a price on carbon that worked to reduce emissions, the establishment of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. It drove down pollution and has driven over $20 billion into over 600 energy projects around the country.  

And what happened? Pollution went down when the carbon price was in force. This was one of the few precious times in our history where emissions actually reduced -- and, in spite of conservative fear-mongering, the sky didn’t fall in. 

It’s still regarded as an example of world-leading emissions reduction legislation, and remains the basis of Greens carbon reduction policy today.

2013: Tony Abbott tore it all down

It was Tony Abbott’s callous destruction of the carbon price, based upon a lie that it was a “carbon tax”, that created the current toxic debate on climate and energy policy. 

The carbon price was working before Tony Abbott was elected in 2013 and tore it down.

Now we’re seeing a Liberal/National party funded significantly by the coal, oil and gas industry, whose climate denialist MPs have torn down a Prime Minister over climate & energy policies. They’re pushing to build new coal fired power stations – against all advice from the market, experts and scientists. 

And the Labor party, for all its talk, still takes huge donations from the fossil fuel lobby, backs the Adani coal mine and announced plans to open up dangerous fracking in the Beetaloo Basin in the NT – the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power stations. 

Meanwhile, the drought has worsened, bushfires are unprecedented and we’re seeing the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, and the collapse of the Murray-Darling.

So, what now?

We’re in a climate emergency, and we need everyone to come together to find a solution that phases out the biggest contributors to the climate crisis: coal, oil and gas. 

Unfortunately, right now, neither of the major parties have a plan to phase out coal, oil and gas because they accept millions in donations from the fossil fuel industry.

This is the real reason for inaction on climate change, and blaming the failures of the CPRS is nothing but a cynical attempt by the major parties to deflect when they’re under pressure to take action on climate change.

We’re committed to working with Labor, and we will keep trying. We reached out to Bill Shorten before the 2019 election, and we're working to find common ground with Anthony Albanese.

We have a lot of work to do in encouraging the Labor party to work with us as Julia Gillard did, when we delivered world-leading climate laws, but we remain optimistic that with unrelenting pressure from the community, we can work with Labor for better outcomes.

Declare a climate emergency!

Right now, we are facing an existential climate crisis that threatens human civilisation and our government must start paying attention. 

It’s time for the Australian Parliament to join hundreds of jurisdictions around the world to declare a climate emergency.

Declaring a climate emergency means recognising that the climate crisis is – quite literally – the fight of our lives. It puts action on climate change at the centre of all government policy and planning decisions, and it begins the whole of government and whole of society mobilisation effort required to protect Australia’s people and ecology.

Recognising we are in a climate crisis by declaring an emergency ends the business as usual approach of the Labor and Liberal parties, who still put their coal, oil and gas donors ahead of people and our environment.

You can join our campaign here: 



Did voting down the CPRS mean 200m tonnes more CO2 in emissions?

No. The Greens worked with Labor to make laws that were far more effective than the CPRS. The Greens/Gillard Carbon Price saw record reductions in pollution that would have continued if Tony Abbott’s climate denying government hadn’t torn them up.

Why did you not vote for it and try and fix it later?

Labor did a deal with the Liberals to vote against Greens improvements to the CPRS legislation. The Greens wanted more ambitious emissions reductions, and less cash handouts to big polluters - but Labor’s refusal to even talk to the Greens meant that we weren’t able to fix the bill.

Why is phasing out coal a priority? Can’t we agree to something else?

Coal, oil and gas is the biggest contributor to climate change - and Australia is responsible for almost a third of coal exports worldwide. If we don’t have a plan for coal, we don’t have a plan for climate change..

Isn’t phasing out coal impossible?

The world is already moving away from coal. Massive structural shifts are occurring in global energy, food and transport markets as the world moves away from outdated, polluting practices and adopts rapidly evolving clean technologies.Our largest trading partners have already told us that they’re looking to transition towards a hydrogen economy - which will have major impacts on our coal exports. If we fail to acknowledge and prepare for this transition it will not only harm the climate, but leave coal workers and communities without a plan for the future.