January 31, 2023

The first thing they noted: the target itself creates a framework for stability and intensified action; Enacting a 43 percent cut in law gives businesses and local governments the confidence to invest in reducing carbon emissions without worrying that competitors who want to avoid such costs will later be rewarded by another government who do not consider the changes necessary.

A second element of the legislation that I heard a lot about was a mechanism for independent review and improvement of this first step.

As the Climate Council notes in his analysis of the legislation:

  • It returns authority to an independent group of experts (the Climate Change Authority) to monitor Australia’s progress towards the targets and to shape the transition towards future targets, including what is expected under the Paris Agreement for 2035.

  • Under the new law, the Climate Change Minister must report to Parliament each year on Australia’s progress towards the country’s goals.

What those two elements do is force Australia to continue the conversation, with scientific experts playing a key role. It’s something good governance experts often ask for on controversial policy issues, and it helps counter what psychologists who study humanity’s response to all kinds of risks call the “single action bias.”

Elke Weber, a psychology professor at Princeton University whom I interviewed for my book (that is published in Australia and out in the United States next year), described the concept as a major impediment to sustainable action on major issues such as climate change. The idea is that, in response to uncertain, frightening situations, people tend to simplify their decision-making and rely on one action, with no further action — usually because the first reduced their sense of concern or vulnerability.

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