The government’s strategy for climate change can be divided into four distinct themes. The first is reducing emissions; the second is improving energy efficiency; the third is adapting to the unavoidable impacts of a changing climate; and the fourth is playing an active role in developing an international strategy.
Tracking government spending on climate change across these four streams is difficult. It involves several departments, and often more than one program within each. Climate change adaptation measures are taken by the climate change portfolio, of course, but also by the environment and agriculture portfolios. Shaping a global solution is in the remit of both the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, for example in relation to overseas climate change aid. (However AusAID does not disaggregate its expenditure to a level fine enough to track climate change funding.)
Emissions reduction measures also cross departments, involving the climate change portfolio, as well as the innovation, environment and agriculture portfolios. To complicate things further, the four streams listed above have each been moved between portfolios—twice in the case of energy efficiency. Most recently, and since the last Budget, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) has been disbanded and merged into two other departments:
- the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism (RET) has adopted the energy efficiency program,
- the renamed Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE) has been expanded to take on all the other ex-DCCEE programs.
As a result of these movements, and the interdisciplinary and amorphous nature of climate change policies, tracking actual spend on climate change is challenging. Nonetheless, we have attempted to do so (Figure 1) but the result is indicative only.
Figure 1: Climate change expenses
Source: Parliamentary Library estimates.
From Figure 1, it is clear that spending on climate change adaptation and international relations is low relative to expenditure on emissions-reduction programs. Programs aimed at improving energy efficiency have had a varying degree of importance within the climate change budget. Energy efficiency expenses were high in 2009–10 with the roll-out of the Energy Efficiency Homes Package (EEHP). However, elements of the EEHP—such as the Home Insulation Program—were discontinued because of safety and compliance concerns. Remediation measures were needed and led to programs becoming overly costly. Perhaps as a result of criticism over these outcomes, the government has reduced expenditure on energy efficiency measures. Also, the EEHP roll-out coincided with the government’s first attempt to legislate an emissions trading scheme (ETS). This is relevant because, in introducing the ETS, the government ended a number of other climate policies that were subsequently considered redundant. As such, spending on energy efficiency measures at that time outweighs spending on other climate change actions.
The Department and its staff
The Department of Climate Change was first created in December 2007 as part of the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. In March 2010, the department was renamed DCCEE and functions relating to energy efficiency were moved from the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Three years later, DCCEE was itself abolished with functions transferred to RET and DIICCSRTE as described earlier. Other agencies related to climate change have also been subject to movement and merging. Figure 2 attempts to track average staffing levels across the climate change department and these related agencies. It shows staff increases until 2012, then a decrease that may be offset somewhat by the recent creation of the non-government Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Figure 2: Average staff levels across the consecutive climate change departments and their agencies
Source: Parliamentary Library estimates.
. Figures are from ‘estimated actual expenses’ in ‘budgeted expense’ tables in Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) of the following year; the category ‘Shaping a global solution’ incorporates figures from the relevant outcome in the climate change department PBS; the category ‘Adapting to climate change’ incorporates figures from the relevant outcome in the climate change department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF); the category ‘Emissions reduction – Energy efficiency’ incorporates figures from the relevant outcome in the climate change department and the relevant outcome in the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts previous to that; the category ‘Emissions reduction – other’ incorporates figures from the relevant outcome in the climate change department, the relevant program in the Department of the Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the relevant expenses of programs in the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism (RET), all expenses from Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER), all expenses from the Australia Solar Institute (ASI), and all expenses from the Clean Energy Regulator (CER); not included are expenses from other portfolios for which either the level of expenses detail is insufficient, the amounts involved are too small, or disaggregating figures would prove too time-consuming.
. Average staff levels (ASLs) are from Budget Papers no. 1 and Portfolio Budget Statements from 2009–10 through to 2013–14; DCCEE represents the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; DIICCSRTE represents the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education; RET represents the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism; ARENA represents the Australian Renewable Energy Agency; the figures for 2008–09 are ASLs from the Department of Climate Change and ORER; the figures for 2009–10 are ASLs from DCCEE and, ORER and ASI; the figures for 2010–11 are ASLs from DCCEE, ORER, ASI and Low Carbon Australia Ltd (LCAL); the figures for 2011–12 are ASLs from DCCEE, the CER, the Climate Change Authority (CCA), LCAL, ARENA and ASI; the figures for 2012–13 are ASLs from DCCEE, the CER, the CCA, ARENA, LCAL and Outcome 4 of DIICCSRTE; the figures for 2013–14 are budgeted ASLs from the annual increase in RET, Outcome 4 of DIICCSRTE, the CER, the CCA, LCAL and ARENA.
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