A long-awaited announcement

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.

This is some of the smarter stuff he says, though it’s wrong. The price signal is intended for industry, NOT for consumers. A consumer price signal might follow, but it might not – if the industry takes action to reduce the tax it’s paying by decreasing its emissions intensity, then the consumer won’t necessarily see a price rise.
He also fails to realise that, to mitigate global warming, coal-fired power stations and the most emissions-intensive industries WILL need to close or be scaled down. Paying people to plant trees (his policy) is a nice complement, but does nothing to stem the carbon being emitted. It’s like buying extra mops when a dam is leaking.
And from Gillard:

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.

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Categories: environmentalism, Problems, Science, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “A long-awaited announcement

  1. Has anyone suggested it might be a good idea if people have fewer children?

    • I think it has been talked about, but it’s a touchy issue – very emotionally charged. Also, in developed countries, the birth rate isn’t particularly high. The conservative party did try to encourage higher birth rates with lump sum payments for a while (a horrific scheme, really) but stabilising population growth is more of an issue in developing countries.

  2. Too bad if it is touchy. There are too many people in the world. The government here actually encourages people to have babies. There was a couple with 15 children being celebrated on TV recently. Why??? 1 or 2 children is enough for anyone. The rest is just selfish and foolish.

    • Yes. In some countries, children are the only retirement plan available – but in developed countries, more than 2 children is hard to justify. There are some organisations out there (I think one called the Optimum Population Trust?) who have been trying to get the discussion happening and break the taboo.

      Put it one way: the single biggest resource-use decision is the decision to have a child.

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