Friday, June 01, 2007

Howard greenwashes climate change with weak carbon emissions scheme

Howard's proposed carbon emissions trading is just a greenwash that won't address climate change. It is too little and too late.

Emissions trading in Europe (where they have been doing it for years) has not benefited the development of renewable energy.

With no (or soft) targets/limits, there won't be any reduction in carbon emissions. At least $35 per tonne for carbon is required before wind can compete on a level field with coal. $50 per tonne is required to make carbon capture/sequestration competitive due to its very high development cost (and don't forget the risk that it may not actually be economically feasible).

Permits must be auctioned, not given away to polluters. Otherwise the highest emitters such as coal fired power stations get a free concession to pollute, and the value of the permits is devalued.

Permits must be temporary licences, not property rights, otherwise owners will claim compensation from taxpayers when they lose them if we actually do succeed in cutting emissions.

Howard has quite obviously been forced by public opinion to reluctantly do something to look like he is addressing climate change. Unsurprisingly, he has failed to address the root cause - which is the burning of fossil fuels.

Malcolm Turnbull has just stated that "the long term direction is for zero emission energy", but the Howard government is light years away from this and is giving $500m to the coal industry.

Here is the roadmap they are studiously ignoring:

  • Reduce consumption through efficiency measures.
  • Boost renewable energy such as biomass, wind, and solar and zero emission geothermal energy and reduce coal-fired generation
  • Gas can be used for power generation to transition to lower emissions
  • Set scientifically backed emission reduction targets of 20% by 2020 (at a minimum) and up to 80% by 2050
  • Use the world global average temperature to measure progress; if it keeps rising more stringent measures are immediately required.

Kevin Rudd is avoiding any short term targets for emission reductions too, so Labor's policy for reducing carbon emissions is currently not much better than Howard's.

We need a paradigm shift to a new jobs-rich economy based on renewable energy. With both major parties dodging and weaving on this, the only clear option to safeguard our future is to vote Green.

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