Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Emissions trading paper not green enough

Draft details of Australia's emissions trading system were today released by climate change minister, Penny Wong. The cap and trade proposal, in which permits to pollute will be traded within an as-yet-unknown national carbon emissions target, looks set to compensate the heavy polluters, including via free permits, and has excluded deforestation - a significant component of Australia's emissions contribution (around 11 per cent, according to one journalist at Wong's National Press Club appearance today).

The draft proposal also heralds reductions in excise to offset petrol price increases resulting from the inclusion of fuel in emissions trading - a move that appears to be a political counter to the Opposition's panic-mongering, and runs counter to Professor Ross Garnaut's own recommendations.

ABC news online has published key details of the draft emissions proposal in a report that is open for comments. Here's mine:

The draft scheme disappoints in its proposed compensation of big emitters, which have had ample opportunity to prepare for Australia's foreseeable and necessary response to climate change. On the basis of your report, it seems we will be asked to continue sharing the impacts of emissions, but not the massive profits of polluters. There should be no free permits, and the revenue from permit auctions should be directed to supporting the transition to a sustainable economy.

Climate considerations have rightly entered the market to change conditions of trade. Big businesses, which to-date have been so accepting of economic casualties in their own interest - such as downsizing and the use of offshore labour, have no right now to be crying for their own protection. It is the Government's role to offer protection not to them, but to the vulnerable in society as we move to a greener Australia that can help lead the world away from dangerous climate change.

In the proposed excise reduction to offset the inclusion of fuel, the government is clearly moving to cushion the political impact of emissions trading. Unfortunately, our atmosphere is indifferent to the polls but relentlessly sensitive to rising concentrations of CO2.

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Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.