Strategic discourse and Australia's carbon pollution reduction scheme



Publication Details

Kaidonis, M. A., Leitch, S. R. & Andrew, J. L. (2009). Strategic discourse and Australia's carbon pollution reduction scheme. Global Dialogue Conference 2009 Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University.


In this paper we explore discourse related to efforts of the Australian Government to mitigate Climate Change. The Australian Government has committed to lowering Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Kyoto Protocol and proposes to introduce a carbon permit trading scheme that it refers to as a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (the Scheme). We focus on the discourse used in reports commissioned by the government and the opposition as well as, draft legislation and hansards. We argue that the strategic discourse has been used by the government in order to garner support from stakeholders that have differing needs and competing interests, namely, voters, corporate entities and polluting industries. The name of the Scheme highlights its objectives, to reduce carbon pollution as a national imperative and we argue that this reflects a strategic discourse to maintain support of the public at large (the voters). The ends to reduce carbon pollution, is used to justify the means, being the establishment of an emissions trading scheme, which engages corporate interests in the Scheme. Reports and draft legislation for the Scheme identified a category of polluting industries as Emissions Intensive and Trade Exposed (EITE). This demonstrates another use of strategic discourse which we argue engages another important stakeholder which needs to mitigate pollution. We argue that linking emissions intensity and trade exposed stages an explicit coupling of the polluting activity and economic vulnerability. This link helps to justify EITE lobbying for financial relief and the government protecting them, since EITE are integral to both carbon pollution reduction and Australia’s economy. In this way the government is seen to prioritise the reduction in carbon pollution while the polluting entities can prioritise their profitability. We argue that strategic discourse can obfuscate the tension between competing stakeholder priorities and we caution that it has the potential to subvert the government’s objective of reduction of carbon pollution.

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