Backwards Australians on carbon pricing

Source: AFP

Tony Abbot has fulfilled his campaign promised and repealed Australia’s carbon pricing mechanism (CPM). What his Coalition Party has misnamed a ‘carbon tax’  and made a political football. The cost to the climate will be paid by future generations, including Australians. It takes a huge step backward for Australia doing its fair share. A sad day for the climate.

The ‘carbon tax’ was in fact a very well-designed emissions trading scheme, which in its first phase had fixed prices. New research by ANU shows that the carbon price was effective in reducing carbon emissions – down by 29 million tonnes or 8.2% across the National Electricity Market over the first two years of the CPM (July 2012-2014), compared to the two years prior. The Coalition government seems to care little how the policy did for the environment. Its own plans – so-called Direct Action – have little chance of being as effective. Why take Australia backwards?

“Direct Action” is unlikely to achieve Australia’s Kyoto commitment of a 5% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020; will most more than $ 2.5 bn – and is a far cry from Australia’s “fair share”. That last point is not my analysis, but Australia’s own independent Climate Change Authority has said that Australia should increase its efforts to at least 15%, even 25%.  That is based, not least, on what others, including developing countries are doing. Whatever happened to “fair dinkum”?

The Climate Institute called the repeal “taking a monumentally reckless backward leap even as other major countries are stepping up climate action”.

Tony Abbott managed to persuade several independents to join his Coalition in support his “pledge in blood” to “axe the tax” (see here). He needed, amongst others, Motoring Enthusiast senator Ricky Muir, to get the required majority in the Senate to repeal legislation. Why spend so much political capital on something that was working?

In the words of Penny Wong (former climate minister, now Oppositoin leader in the Senate): “I think future generations will look back on these bills and they will be appalled … at the short-sighted, opportunistic selfish politics of those opposite and Mr Abbott will go down as one of the most short-sighted, selfish and small people ever to occupy the office of prime minister.”