The Abbott Government has now abolished the carbon tax, and achieved the political equivalent of “rolling coal” for Australia by making it the first country on earth to kill carbon pricing legislation. The move was immediately dubbed a “catastrophic failure of the political system” and a “generational failure of leadership” which will make Australia an international pariah, but hope remains as strong support for clean energy remains, and Senate negotiations may see the building blocks of an emissions trading scheme (ETS) remain.
Today’s landmark backwards step may isolate Australia politically and compromise its ability to modernise and clean up its dirty economy, but it is likely to be a pyrrhic victory for the Government. The science is clear, international action is increasing rapidly, the coal industry is dying, fossil generators are in a death spiral, renewables are unstoppable, and an ETS is an inevitability.
- RT @AdamBandt: Spot the difference. http://t.co/nA7LGGvn4d pic.twitter.com/nA7LGGvn4d
- RT @Mark_Butler_MP: Senate has voted. Australia has no climate policy. #shame http://t.co/gGl7YDU2e0
- Australia is now the first country on earth to roll back carbon pricing, but while the carbon tax may be dead, it was undeniably doing its job to cut emissions, and did so without any of the dire impacts on the economy or taxpayers claimed by its detractors. While removing carbon pricing drags Australia backwards on climate action, it is fortunate that strong support for renewable energy and key climate institutions remains, while a chance remains to rescue the furniture of an emissions trading scheme.
- There is no way to avoid paying for carbon pollution. Either polluters pay for their emissions; taxpayers pay for polluter emissions; or everybody suffers the severe costs of climate change. The Abbott Government’s removal of carbon pricing is an attempt to fight the future that puts everyday Australians on the hook for polluter emissions, and more costly climate action down the track.
- The Abbott Government has made Australia an international pariah on climate action just as the rest of the world is taking increasing action to reduce emissions. Today’s backwards steps on carbon pricing isolate Australia internationally, and increase economic risk by supporting the fossil fuel industry in the face of terminal decline. As Giles Parkinson puts it: “It’s not just the Australian negotiating position that will be stranded, it will be large parts of its economy.”
- The carbon tax may be gone, but the threat from climate change remains. It is already having sweeping effects on every continent, the risks and impacts are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought, and countries around the world – now especially Australia – are ill-prepared for these impacts. Physical impacts include a rise in the sea level, acidification of the ocean, change in rainfall patterns and an increase in the frequency of natural disasters, including droughts and bushfires. This generates costs to business and economic disruption that Australia cannot ignore, and it now lacks effective policy to deal with it.
While the carbon tax may be dead, it was undeniably doing its job to cut emissions. Put simply, pollution is declining in a growing economy, and doing so without impacting household budgets considering the significant compensation handed out to cover carbon pricing-related price rises.
The federal government’s often repeated claim that scrapping the carbon price will provide households with an extra $550 a year has been labelled a “mirage”, and many questions have been raised around Tony Abbott’s claims in opposition that the carbon tax would add 5 per cent to the cost of food – not to mention the laughable “$100 lamb roast” scares from his party.
Supermarkets say these prices have not happened. Like airlines, they have absorbed the cost of the carbon price. Other claimed impacts – such as the “Whyalla wipeout” – have similarly failed to materialise.
Much has been made on the hip-pocket hit of pricing carbon, all of which has turned out to be little more than scaremongering, and none of which takes the broader impacts of climate inaction into account.
Rupert Murdoch may view climate change with “much scepticism” and believe that the solution to sea level rise is tonot “build vast houses on seashores”, but the reality is that climate impacts are costly.
Pricing carbon is a metaphorical levee against future extreme weather impacts on our planet. With a business-as-usual scenario, we are currently locked in to a 4DegC rise in global average temperatures. This will have vast environmental and economic impacts, but if the world acts to reduce emissions fast enough and strongly enough, the frequency and severity of these impacts can be reduced.
For example: Ross Gittins notes that had a levee to protect Roma, in Queensland, been built in 2005, it would have cost $20 million. Since it wasn’t built,$100 million has been paid out in insurance claims since 2008 and a repair bill of more than $500 million incurred by the public and private sectors since 2005. Pricing carbon pollution is a global levy against a future of increased risk on every front.
Fortunately, while today marked the end of the carbon tax, it has not marked the end of Australian carbon pricing in its totality. The Labor party has confirmed it will take an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to the 2016 election, and the Palmer United Party (PUP) has proposed an amendment to the repeal bills for a zero dollar ETS, to be introduced, and scaled up as Australia’s trading partners take action.
The details of PUP’s ETS are still fluid, and the bar is rapidly being raised following the inclusion of emissions reduction action by India this week, but this and the fact renewable energy support and key institutions such as a the Climate Change Authority will also survive – unless there are further last minute surprises from the PUP – at least mean there is some hope that enough furniture has been saved to ensure Australia can rejoin the ranks of progressive countries in the future.
And act Australia must, if it is to respect the will of its people. Tony Abbott and the Coalition Government have spent much time claiming their election is a mandate for the removal of the carbon tax, but the reality is the majority of Australians support climate action and want it now.
Australian’s want action because they trust the science, and are already living through increases in extreme weather events, suffering through angry summers, seeing bushfires strike with increasing frequency and intensity, and understand that the driest continent on earth next to Antarctica is drying out further thanks to our emissions.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of “Sleepwalking the country into an environmental and economic disaster”, and it is clear that his government does not understand that the fossil industry is the new subprime danger.
In reality: there is no way to avoid paying for carbon pollution. Either polluters pay for their emissions, taxpayers pay for polluter emissions, or everybody suffers the severe costs of climate change.
- Carbon repeal: a generational failure of leadership (Crikey)
- The carbon tax is dead and there is nothing credible to take its place (The Guardian)
- Carbon tax is gone: Repeal bills pass the Senate (Sydney Morning Herald)
- Carbon tax repeal raises long-term risks for Australian business (Business Spectator)
- Carbon tax abolished in Senate (Australian Financial Review)
- Australia kills off carbon tax (The Guardian)
- Tony Abbott battles the future by axing carbon tax (Sydney Morning Herald)
- Carbon tax repealed: a short timeline of Australia’s long debate about emissions trading (The Guardian)
- Despite its demise, the carbon price cut emissions (RenewEconomy)
- Australia dumps carbon price, as repeal bill finally passes through Senate (RenewEconomy)
- Coalition expected to drop refrigerant gases from carbon tax repeal laws (The Guardian)
- Climate debate trashed for short-term gain (ABC)
- Carbon tax going, but don’t expect big savings (Sydney Morning Herald)
- Carbon price gone, but never dead (Business Spectator)
- Rolling coal: Abbott blows black smoke into Australian economy (RenewEconomy)
- Carbon tax repeal: extra $550 a year for families called a ‘mirage’ (The Guardian)
- Clive Palmer’s changes may doom proposed emissions trading scheme (The Guardian)
- Why nothing has really changed in Australia’s surrealist climate policy circus (The Guardian)
- The generation gap on climate change (ABC)
- History will condemn climate change denialists (The Guardian)
- Abolishing renewable energy target rewards rich polluters (Matt Grundoff)
- Climate debate trashed for short-term gain (ABC)
- Carbon tax repeal: industry reassured it won’t be pursued on price cuts (The Guardian)
Tools and resources
- PR: Australia lurches backwards as pollution is free again (The Climate Institute)
- PR: It’s a rip-off – households won’t see anything near $550 a year saving (The Climate Institute)
- PR: Repeal of carbon laws a windfall for big polluters and a blow for a safe climate (Environment Victoria)
- PR: Abbott Government makes polluting free (WWF)
- Interview: Ross Garnaut Q&A: “There is no doubt Australia is out of step” (The Conversation)
- Article: Tony Abbott’s global retreat (The Saturday Paper)
- Charts: 8 charts that show how climate change is making the world more dangerous (The Guardian)
- Report: Climate of the Nation 2014 Australian attitudes on climate change: Are Australians climate dinosaurs? (Climate Institute)
- Report: Annual surveys of Australian attitudes to climate change (CSIRO)
- Audio: Carbon tax axe won’t deliver on savings: Australia Institute (ABC Radio National)
Australian Attitudes to climate action
- 47 per cent now think that carbon pricing is better than taking no action, up 8 points from 2012 (The Climate Institute)
- 76 per cent believe the government should be providing incentives for and making it easier for renewable companies, such as wind, to get projects off the ground (The Climate Institute)
- 63 per cent believe the Australian government should be taking a leadership role on reducing emissions (Lowy Institute)
- Highest-ever level of support for the view climate change is real since we started asking the question in 2009, and a corresponding decline in sceptics and fence-sitters (Essential Report April 2014, ABC)
- The number of Australians who disagree with the current carbon price laws, fell to 30 per cent – down from 52 per cent in 2012 (The Climate Institute)
Images and video
- Video: If Our Government Won’t Act on Climate Change, We Will (Australian civil society)
- Video: Parliament’s asbestos moment: Carbon price repeal (Greens MPs)
- Images: Carbon Tax repeal (David Pope), Tony Abbott (Flickr / Global Panorama), Rolling coal (Flickr / streetshotzphotography), Parliament House (Flickr / Christopher Chan), Carbon price leg of lamb (ACF), Three words that come to mind (The Climate Institute)
- “Today’s repeal of laws that price and limit carbon pollution is an historic act of irresponsibility and recklessness. Today we lose a credible framework of limiting pollution that was a firm foundation for a fair dinkum Australian contribution to global climate efforts. What we are left with as potential replacement policy rests on three wobbly legs – a Government fund subject to an annual budgetary arm wrestle, uncertain non-binding limits on some company emissions, and a renewable energy target under assault.” CEO of The Climate Institute, John Connor.
- “By choosing to dismantle carbon pricing we’re choosing to dismantle the low-cost way of getting to whatever carbon targets we have, and we’re choosing to stand outside an increasing tendency of the rest of the world to go in this direction.” Professor Ross Garnaut.
- “Australia will more than play its part to address climate change but will do it in a practical and balanced way in full knowledge of the economic consequences for our nation. Stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will be difficult, but not impossible. We do not have to sacrifice our economic prosperity to tackle the problem.” Then Prime Minister John Howard on introducing a cap and trade ETS in July, 2007.
- “Direct Action is a policy designed solely for the Prime Minister’s personal core constituency – the flat earth society. It is a policy concocted purely to appease the rag-tag militia of the internet trolls, the cranky radio shock jocks and the extreme columnists. The ideologues and demagogues who have held the climate change debate hostage for too long.” Opposition leader Bill Shorten.
- “[T]he physical effects of climate change include a rise in the sea level, acidification of the ocean, change in rainfall patterns and an increase in the frequency of natural disasters, including droughts. Extreme weather may lead to more bushfires, while heavy rainfall and cyclones may lead to flooding. Do you think all that generates no costs to business, no disruption to the economy?” Sydney Morning Herald economics editor Ross Gittins.
- “The Abbott government has deliberately misled the public about the costs of action to protect Australians from climate change. The AMWU is joining calls for the Abbott government to stop the lies and come clean about the cost of inaction on climate change. Failure to act on climate will lead to long term damage to the environment, hobbling our economy and generations to come.” National President of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Andrew Dettmer.
- “The impact of climate change on our health will be serious and costly. The Public Health Association of Australia calls on the government to be honest about who pays the real costs of carbon pollution.” CEO of the Australian Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore.
- “We know that people experiencing poverty will be hit first and hardest by the impacts of climate change and have the least capacity to adapt. We also know that the drivers of energy prices and other costs of living pressures are much broader and more complex than the introduction of a carbon price or renewable energy target.” CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, Dr Cassandra Goldie.
- “With the disappointing repeal of the Carbon price, protecting the Renewable Energy Target is now even more essential. Doing so should be a no-brainer, because not only is the Renewable Energy Target an effective mechanism to cut pollution, it also means billions of dollars in investment in Australia and lower electricity bills for households.” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Climate Campaigner, Nic Clyde.
- “Australians want to see our nation lead the way on renewable energy. Support for meaningful action on climate change continues to grow, yet the Abbott government has failed to present a credible climate policy. The government needs to get with the times.” GetUp National Director, Sam McLean.
Related Tree Alerts
- Palmer United Party senate debut marks rocky start to carbon tax repeal
- Al Gore joins Clive Palmer as he announces renewable protection, ETS
- Australians want clean energy & climate action, yet fossils fight renewables
- Conservative leaders band together to deny economic imperative of climate change
- RT @political_alert: The Senate has passed the #CarbonTax Repeal Bills with no amendments, 39-32 #auspol
- RT @BernardKeane: The carbon price repeal is a generational failure of leadership and an attack on our young: http://t.co/gLRC1r9qA3
- RT @AusConservation: “As the world steps up its efforts, Australia finds itself with no working policy to cut pollution” – @kellyoshanassy
- RT @andrewbradleyhc: #repealtheclowns http://t.co/c1qhgKnc89
- MT @AlboMP: This week in 2007 – Howard announces emissions trading system – ABC News (ABC) http://t.co/3grObCL5mS
- MT @TonyHWindsor: Palmer has uncovered the myths that were perpetrated on Aust people on climate debate. Need Independent or Senate Inquiry
- MT @climatrisk: Sad & stupid day for our nation. We will recall who voted this down & ensure they are removed from public life #carbonprice
- RT @SenatorWong: Penny on carbon: Abbott to go down as one of most short sighted, opportunistic, selfish & small ppl ever to hold the office of PM -Team Wong
- MT @jonkudelka: It is just as well climate change is made up, otherwise getting rid of the carbon price would be grossly irresponsible