It’s probably a good thing. I heard about it about five hours after the official announcement, when the howling and spinning had already started. That’s right: the leader of the country with the highest CO2 emissions per capita (tip: it’s Australia) has announced plans for a price on carbon, starting in mid 2012.
The details are yet to be negotiated; the actual price per tonne, compensation schemes and exclusions. So, while the move is a positive step, it could turn out to be a fizzer of a scheme. If the price is too low, little will change: new bureaucratic infrastructure will be required, the cost of goods will rise a little but investment in renewables or efficiency may not be stimulated to a significant extent.
Two things are particularly important for me about the proposed scheme. One is the extent of exclusions and omissions from the scheme. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, negotiated by Labour and the Liberals in late 2009, gave huge amounts of credits to the most polluting industries and would have done little to bring about either emissions reductions or economic restructuring towards lower carbon technology.
The other is where the money raised actually goes. The Liberals are screaming about it being a new tax and the like, but that is only likely to be the case for higher income earners who lead carbon-intensive lifestyles. If the money is managed properly (… can’t say I hold out a huge amount of hope for this, though the recent reputation of Labour for wastefulness is only partially deserved) then lower income earners and small businesses can be compensated under the scheme, easing their financial burden.
The proposal is a relatively slow start, and I’m not sure if it’s a winner from a PR perspective. I fail to see how Julia has won much positive support; people who want to see action on climate change must be cautious, because the scheme may be gutted of effectiveness in the 16 months before it kicks in. It’s an ‘about time’ moment. Yes, it provides business with a bit more certainty when investing, which is a good thing, but I’m unconvinced that it’s going to win people over with vision and a true plan for the future.
Anyway, having had a look over at Twitter where the messages to Gillard range between raving lunatic madness and cautious encouragement, and seeing the framing taken on by most mainstream Australian media, this is going to be a difficult one for Labour to turn into a success. I hope they can… it’ll be interesting to watch!