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Dr Gideon Polya
Dr Gideon Polya

Australia's outrageously deficient carbon tax entrenches climate change inaction

The Gillard Labor Australian Federal Government has announced details of its Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan by which it ostensibly proposes to “tackle climate changeâ€. However sensible analysis of the proposals makes it clear that Australia’s pro-coal, pro-gas Labor Government has no intention of doing anything of the kind and its plan is simply a rhetoric-cloaked scheme for entrenched climate change inaction while pretending to do otherwise.

Before considering the details of Labor's plan one must consider Australia's position as a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas pollution and fossil fuel exports.

Australia’s Domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution including land use in Mt (million tonnes) CO2-e (CO2-equivalent) was 465 Mt CO2-e in 2000 but reached 600 Mt CO2-e in 2009. However simple cause-and-effect considerations mean that one must also consider Australia’s huge fossil fuel exports that in 2009 totalled 815 Mt CO2-e, the breakdown being 31 Mt CO2-e (liquid natural gas, LNG) plus 784 Mt CO2-e (coal). Thus Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution was 1,415 Mt CO2-e in 2009. Australia's annual per capita GHG pollution in 2009 was accordingly 600 Mt CO2-e/21.9 million people = 27.4 tonnes CO2-e per person per year but 1,415 Mt CO2-e/21.9 million persons = 64.6 tonnes CO2-e per person per year if Australia’s huge fossil fuel exports are included. By way of comparison, the annual per capita GHG pollution of Bangladesh is 0.9 tonnes CO2-e per person per year, 72 times lower than Australia’s Domestic plus Exported annual per capita GHG pollution).

"This is a profoundly dishonest, counterproductive and damaging proposal that fails to seriously tackle man-made climate change."
The Labor Government plan involves the following major features (noting that Australia’s GDP is about $1,000 billion and that its power generation capacity, about 90% fossil fuel-based, is about 50,000 MW).

1. There will be a derisory GHG pollution target of “5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020†and a target of 80% reduction by 2050. A Climate Change Authority will recommend caps for an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and GHG pollution targets. The Government will be asked to explain if it does not adopt the recommended targets.

2. A very low carbon price or Carbon Tax of $23 per tonne of carbon ( $23/tC) will apply to a politics-determined, limited set of GHG sources from 1 July 2012, rising by 2.5% in 2013-214 and 2014-2015. In July 2015 a Cap-and-Trade Carbon Trading Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will be introduced and the Carbon Tax will be allowed to float between a price floor of $15/tC (indexed) and 20% above the expected international price (also indexed).

3. The Carbon Tax will only apply to stationary energy (power stations), industrial processes (e.g. steel and cement manufacture) and fugitive emissions (e.g. from coal mines and rubbish tips). However, in keeping with the profoundly corrupt nature of Australian society, the Carbon Tax will not be applied to agriculture, light commercial and household transport, and to trucks. However trucking outside of agriculture will face reduced business fuel tax credits from 2014. Aviation will face a higher excise on fuel. The Australian Productivity Commission will review fuel tax arrangements.

4. The ETS arrangement will permit International Carbon credits after 2015 to offset the cost of licenses to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries of the World. A maximum of 50% of International Credits can be used (e.g. from forestry-related deals with tropical Developing countries).

5. There will be all kinds of taxation benefits and pension increases to cover the increased costs of the Carbon Tax flowing through to electricity, gas and other purchases by middle to low income people.

6. Emissions intensive trade-exposed industries (notably steel) will be partly protected. A Coal Sector Jobs Package will give $1.3 billion over 6 years to assist over emissions from gassy mines. A Clean Technology Program will provide $1.2 billion to support low emissions technology in manufacturing. An Energy Security Fund will provide $5.5 billion in free permits and cash to 2016-2107 and up to 2000MW of high emissions power plants will be closed.

7. A Clean Energy Finance Corporation will invest $10 billion over 5 years from 2013-2104 in renewables and low emissions technologies (excluding Carbon Capture and Storage). An Australian Renewable Energy Agency will supervise $3.2 billion in renewable energy funding. It is projected that $100 billion will be invested in renewable energy over the next 40 years (i.e. $2.5 billion per year).

8. The revenue is expected to be $8 -$9 billion pa to 2014-2015 and fuel tax savings when implemented will save $0.6 billion pa. Household assistance will cost $4-$5 billion pa and industry assistance will cost about $3 billion pa. However a further $1 billion pa is required from general taxation-derived revenue to pay for the package. Out of this about $2 billion will go to fund renewable energy.

This is a profoundly dishonest, counterproductive and damaging proposal that fails to seriously tackle man-made climate change and indeed entrenches climate change inaction in disproportionately polluting, climate criminal Australia. In contrast, the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Opposition has a Direct Action Plan that involves Government savings-funded action of re-afforestation, biochar and lower emissions technology and costing about $1 billion pa to achieve the same derisory “5% of 2000 GHG by 2020†goal of the Labor Government . The Coalition proposal has the benefits that it does not damage Australian industry and does not entrench climate change inaction (the Coalition scheme can be readily ramped up if needed – and of course, massive ramping up is needed).

More specific criticisms of the Labor Carbon–Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan are set out point-by-point below.

1. Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, and currently visiting Melbourne to speak at the “Four Degrees or More?†conference at the University of Melbourne, wrote as follows in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper (11 July 2011):

“leading [the World] is about Australia adopting for itself the kind of reduction target that is needed from all to keep warming below 2 degrees. The 5 per cent reduction from 2000 by 2020 position of Australia translates into about a 25 per cent to 30 per cent increase in industrial greenhouse gas emissions above 1990 levels, once all of Australia's special accounting rules are includedâ€.

If we assume that Labor actually succeeds in achieving "5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020" this will mean Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2020 will be roughly double that in 2000 (see: Australia’s “5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020†endangers Australia, Humanity and Biosphere). According to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, for a 67% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise, the World must cease CO2 emissions by 2050 and top per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluters such as the US and Australia must get to zero CO2 emissions by 2020. According to the Australian Climate Commission's 2011 "The Critical Decade" report, for a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise the World can emit no more than 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 before reaching zero emissions in about 2050. Australia's high Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution rate means it must get to zero emissions in 1.9 years or in 4.6 years (ignoring Exported GHG pollution) (see: Australia Ignores 25 Huge Climate Change Realities).

2. It is estimated that a carbon tax of greater than $25/tonne carbon will encourage gas-fired power, $70/tonne carbon is needed to encourage wind and about $200/tonne carbon will encourage concentrated solar thermal installation (indeed Labor hopes for a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition) . Gas is not clean, it is dirty, 1 tonne of methane (CH4) generating 2.8 tonnes CO2 on combustion. Gas burning is cleaner than coal burning in terms of twice the MWh/tonne CO2 emitted and less health damaging pollutants but gas is not cleaner than coal burning GHG-wise. Thus methane (CH4) leaks (3.3%) and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year timeframe taking aerosol impacts into account, this meaning that a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition will double electric power industry-derived GHG pollution.

3. The Carbon Tax only applies to the approximately about one third of Australia’s sources of GHG pollution and notoriously excludes agriculture which, according got the latest World bank assessment, is responsible for over 50% of GHG pollution. These politics-driven exclusions are discriminatory as well as making it quite clear that Labor simply does not want to “tackle climate changeâ€. The boasted “80% off by 2050†can be seen as dishonest spin because most of the politicians involved will be dead or extremely elderly by 2050.

4. The ETS approach has been condemned by top climate scientists, economists and analysts as empirically ineffective (e.g. the outstandingly ineffective EU ETS), disastrously counterproductive, market manipulation-permissive and inherently fraudulent (Australia proposes to sell licences to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries in the World). For about 50 such expert views condemning the ETS approach see 300.org). The use of International Credits is a dishonest ploy that enables high polluting companies to obtain much cheaper Carbon Credits outside Australia from corrupt and impoverished Third World countries.

5. Of the Carbon Tax and other revenue or savings amounting to about $10 billion pa, about $5 billion will be given to householders to pay for the increased costs passed on to them by the energy sector and other industry. However this simply makes Australian manufacturing less competitive, a problem compounded by the very high value of Australian dollar.

6. In addition to half the Carbon Tax money going to enable householders to pay for increased costs, the most highly polluting industries will be further supported by about $3 billion pa. The ETS will involve massive subsidies for major polluters.

7. $2 billion per year for renewables is pathetically small given the urgent, science-demanded need to reach 100% renewable energy ASAP (see point #1), an achievement that will variously cost $37 billion pa for 10years (wind and concentrated solar energy with molten salts energy storage; Beyond Zero Emissions), $13 billion pa for 20 years (Professor Peter Seligman’s scheme in his book “Australian Sustainable Energy - by the numbersâ€); $14-$20 billion pa for 10 years (for wind power providing 80% of an estimated 325,000 GWh of electrical energy needed by continent Australia in 2020). In social context, Australians spend about $20 billion pa on gambling. Of course one must also realize that anti-science Labor has a strange notion of what “renewable energy†means – thus this term covered methane for hot water and methane from mines in Federal Renewable Energy legislation several years ago.

8. Overall, this Carbon Tax amounts to a futile cycle of taxing some polluters and returning the money to the polluters or to consumers to help them pay for increased prices – with an arguable $2 billion pa slippage for renewable energy investment. And all this to achieve a doubling of Australia’s 2000 Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution by 2020 while pretending to “tackle climate changeâ€.

The extraordinarily incompetent, pro-coal, pro-gas Gillard Labor Government is good at one thing – politics. Labor has very successfully conned most of the pro-environment movement in Australia into support for its disastrous climate policies on the utterly flawed basis that “doing something is better than doing nothingâ€. However dispassionate, science-based analysis says that Labor’s policy will be a comprehensive disaster. The fundamental reason for the disaster is that Labor’s policy is based on an endlessly trumpeted lie, specifically that it wants to “tackle climate changeâ€. PM Julia “Juliar†Gillard refuses to say if she had opposed the ETS proposal of former Labor PM Kevin Rudd and is much criticized for promising before the last election that there would not be a Carbon Tax if her government was re-elected. Now she says that she went to the election supporting an ETS, conveniently ignoring the reality that an ETS is in itself a huge Carbon Tax.

If Labor were serious about “tackling climate change†it would immediately (a) abolish the estimated $12 billion pa in fossil fuel subsidies and (B) simply abolish export licences for Australia’s coal and natural gas exports. In 2009 Australia’s Domestic GHG pollution was 600 Mt CO2-e and its Exported GHG was 815 Mt CO2-e, the total being 1,415 Mt CO2-e. In 2000 Australia’s Domestic GHG (465 Mt CO2-e) plus Exported GHG (349.4 Mt CO2-e) was 814 Mt CO2-e. By 2020 on Labor’s policies, Australia’s Domestic GHG pollution will be 442 Mt CO2-e and its Exported GHG will be 1,149 Mt CO2-e, the total being 1,591 Mt CO2-e, 12% bigger than at present and 195% of that in 2000. The Australian Labor Government has no intention of “tackling climate change†while dishonestly pretending otherwise.

Of course there is a fundamentally important domestic reason for Australia to stop carbon pollution. Carbon burning pollutants have been estimated from Canadian and New Zealand data to kill about 10,000 Australians yearly. Australians dying each year from the effects of pollutants from vehicles, coal burning for electricity and other carbon burning total about 2,200, 4,600 and 2,800, respectively. Further, “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution†in units of “tonnes CO2 -equivalent per person per year†(2005-2009 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 27 (Australia; or 64 if Australia's huge Exported CO2 pollution is included).

In summary, in stark contrast to the Australian Coalition Opposition's too-little-too-late Direct Action policy, the pro-coal, pro-gas, anti-science, market economics-based Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy of the Gillard Labor Government fails comprehensively in 2 key areas, specifically (1) it entrenches climate change inaction for decades by promoting a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition (that will double electricity generation-derived GHG pollution) and scuppering science-demanded 100% renewable energy by 2020 and (2) it adopts an empirically ineffective, disastrously counterproductive and inherently fraudulent ETS approach as well as ignoring petrol, fossil fuel exports (apart from fugitive emissions, extraction and transport costs), soil, forestry and agriculture (agriculture being responsible for over 50% of GHG pollution). And Australia’s huge fossil fuel exports will continue to remorselessly expand with an annual growth of 2.4% for coal and 9% for LNG.

Climate criminal, climate racist Australia is disproportionately involved in a worsening climate genocide that is predicted to kill about 10 billion non-Europeans this century (see “Climate Genocideâ€). Australia's selfish, greedy, politically correct racist (PC racist), dog-in-the-manger intransigence about climate change action invites international boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), sporting bans (e.g. exclusion from the Olympics and the football and cricket World Cups), Green Tariffs, International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations and International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions. What can decent people do? Decent folk must (a) inform everyone they can and (B) demand sanctions in response to Australia 's entrenched policy of disproportionate greenhouse gas pollution of the World's one common atmosphere.

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The most worrying is that it seems that more and more people don't trust the media and environmental agencies anymore, all the more since the failure of the Copenhagen summit. I am currently working in carbon management company in South Africa (http://www.climateafrica.co.za/  , http://www.climatestandard.org/)   and more and more people come up with stuff like "Why should we reduce our ghg emissions when volcanoes are responsible for more CO2 emissions than human activities?". I don't know where people hear that but i suspect anti-ecologist to be behind such statements. I did some research and volcanoes are responsible for 200 million tons of emissions whereas human activities represent 30 billion tons. I hope that the media will cover such questions more accurately, so that people become really aware of the problem.

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This Carbon Tax, I argue, is based on speculative science. A visit to joannenova.com.au will provide sufficient material for any open minded person to see the science is not settled.

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this is a huge fuss in australia not sure what to expect, everyone is jumpimg on  the green energy band wagon, for more information, check out, www.green-energyonline.com

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The extremely incompetent, pro-coal, pro-gas Gillard Work Administration is great at one element – national politics. Work has very properly swindled most of the pro-environment movements in Quotes into service for its terrible that you are guidelines on the absolutely problem groundwork that doing something is better than doing nothing. http://www.zyy.com/

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