Australia – possibly the world’s most hostile Western country for environmentalists at the moment – has announced plans for a carbon tax. The Labour Party, in coalition with independents and the Greens, are to impose a price of $23 (~£15) per tonne of carbon emitted by 500 of Australia’s biggest polluters. The proceeds from the tax will be used to compensate taxpayers via tax cuts, and also be used to support workers who will be affected, and invest in renewable energy.
A few things that I’ve noticed right away:
- A very high proportion of the pollution from large industries will be given to them in credits to start with.
- The price changes most people will see are moderate. Power costs going up *might* be enough to encourage voluntary behaviour change but purchasing decisions on food are unlikely to be affected, as agriculture is excluded from the scheme.
- The rebates will come in the form of tax cuts. This is OK, but doesn’t explicitly link the carbon element of the overall tax payment to the extra savings.
- Petrol is excluded. Durrr….
Comments from Tony Abbott, the conservative leader:
So I say “no” to a carbon tax because I say “yes” to manufacturing in Australia and “yes” to affordable electricity and transport.
The whole point of this carbon tax is to make coal, gas and oil more expensive.
The price signal won’t work if the price isn’t high.
The tax doesn’t work if it doesn’t hurt.
It has to make turning on your heater more expensive and make using transport more expensive to work.
From 1 July next year, big polluters will pay $23 for every tonne of carbon they put into our atmosphere.
They now know how much they will pay unless they cut their pollution.
And they can start planning to cut pollution now.
By 2020 our carbon price will take 160 million tonnes of pollution out of the atmosphere every year.
Perhaps. It sounds good, but that relies on the price signal working. Unlike a cap and trade scheme, if industries can still profit under the tax regime, they can still pollute. I definitely endorse the carbon tax – bureaucratically, it doesn’t add anywhere near as much as a cap and trade – but the plan as it stands is not enough to make emissions cuts that will actually impact on my future and that of my generation. It also won’t affect my wallet much. Small victories.