Climate Change Authority board members conflicted

At least two members of the recently announced board of the Climate Change Authority have conflicts of interest.

The new independent Climate Change Authority will regularly review Australia’s climate policies. Its first job will be to review the Renewable Energy Target later this year. The Authority’s most important task will be, in February 2014, to recommend five years of emissions targets, so it is critical that its recommendations are based on science, not vested interests.

The Board of the Authority will be chaired by Bernie Fraser, a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia. The other Board members are a diverse bunch: economist Lynne Williams, former Alumina Limited CEO John Marlay, climate scientist David Karoly, former Australian Industry Group head Heather Ridout, climate change activist Clive Hamilton, Australian Super chair Elana Rubin, and economist John Quiggin. Chief Scientist Ian Chubb will be an ex-officio member. Former Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency advisor Anthea Harris will be the Climate Change Authority’s CEO.

Karoly, Chubb, and Hamilton are all good appointments. Karoly is an obvious choice, as a respected expert in the field and a good communicator. Chubb does not have specifically relevant expertise, but understands the scientific method. Hamilton, though not a scientist, is known to be strongly in favor of a science-based scale of action.

A visit to Quiggin’s blog shows him to be an intelligent person, informed on climate change, and politically left-wing. The Age has described Fraser as “an economist with a conscience”. Williams has worked for the Productivity Commission, which in my experience tends to take a narrow right-wing point of view. Harris has been working on Australian climate policy for years, and has also worked at the Productivity Commission. I was unable to find out much about Rubin, though I notice her position at Australian Super is as a Member Director appointed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

The two with conflicts of interest are Ridout and Marlay. Ridout was until very recently chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, which is constantly lobbying for climate policies to be weakened or scrapped.

Marley is a former CEO of Alumina Limited. He currently holds or has formerly held senior positions at a long list of companies, many of them in emissions-intensive industries: Tomago Aluminium Company; oil company Esso Australia Limited; cement companies Boral Limited, Alesco Corporation Limited, and Hanson plc; asbestos company James Hardie Industries Limited, chemical company Incitec Pivot Limited, engineering consulting company Cardno Limited, and holding company Pioneer International Group Holdings. He was a member of the former Howard Government’s Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading.

To put executives and lobbyists on a board that will recommend policies affecting their industry is like putting a fox in charge of a henhouse.

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