tip off

Screw consultation, let’s just ban stuff: how to really fight climate change

We’ve tried giving business lobbyists and spinmeisters the chance to voice their concerns over environmental regulation. That didn’t work. It’s time to play hardball — and businesses will gratefully fall in line.

Here’s an idea. If the business community and the conservative side of politics are never going to embrace market mechanisms to tackle climate change — what our PM has derisively termed a “so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one” — then let’s stop pandering to them and go back to banning stuff.

Emissions trading schemes (ETS) or “cap and trade”, as the Americans call it, was meant to be a business-friendly, economically rational alternative approach to regulation and the command economy. It was used there successfully in the 1990s to stop acid rain by reducing emissions of sulphur dioxides and nitrogen oxides. It is a strategy the US energy industry — as executives will tell you in a quiet moment — is extremely comfortable with.

But if the business lobby is going to go into hysterics about every sensible proposal to establish an ETS — or worse, jump into bed with the climate sceptics and abandon action on climate altogether, as they’ve done this year — then stuff ‘em.

Are the lobbyists and spinmeisters worried about red and green tape? Always. That’s their job. Let’s give them something to really worry about. All business wants is a level playing field. If the law establishes we are going to reduce emissions fast, companies will work within the law (ultimately, gladly, because you’d be mad to think businesspeople are not concerned about climate change). Australia’s economy will get what early-mover advantages the Germans and Japanese and Californians haven’t hoovered up.

Let’s call our ETS alternative something easily comprehensible, like “direct action”. We have taken some substantial direct actions already. Land-clearing bans introduced during the Howard years got us through the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. As environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull banned incandescent light bulbs in 2007. Another direct action, often under-appreciated, was to install pink batts in hundreds of thousands of Australian homes. We are reaping the benefit of both these last initiatives in lower electricity demand and lower emissions today.

But if the business lobby is going to go into hysterics about every sensible proposal to establish an ETS … then stuff ‘em.”

Here are four more direct actions that would be appropriate to the climate emergency we face as a very high carbon-polluting country whose fair share of the global effort would be to reduce emissions by circa 25% this decade:

1) Approve no more new thermal coal mines, period. No coal mine expansions or modifications. This would not be retrospective and would not stop anybody from exploiting existing rights. But whatever’s been approved so far is the end of it. This could be announced tomorrow. P.S. let’s stop this ludicrous argument that we have to mine more coal for the sake of China or India or other developing countries suffering energy poverty. Australia doesn’t care about overseas poverty — we just cut our foreign aid budget again. Anyway, developing countries have better alternatives at home. Given the consequences of climate change fall hardest on poorer countries, we’d be doing them a favour.

2) Phase in greenhouse gas emissions intensity standards for power stations comparable with those now proposed in the United States or better. That would result in the closure of Victoria’s brown coal-fired power stations, reducing Australia’s emissions substantially. If Greg Hunt is right about one thing, it is this: Labor blew more than a billion in non-refundable taxpayer cash by giving the brown coal generators in the Latrobe Valley compensation for the impact of the carbon price we have now abolished. They never deserved it. They should have seen climate change coming since at least 1995 and done something to reduce their emissions. They didn’t. Never mind, they have been handsomely over-compensated now. They can use that money to fund the rehabilitation of their fire-prone mine sites and switch to gas if they want to, as then TruEnergy (now Energy Australia) proposed at Yallourn in 2009. Using their own money for that.

3) In Victoria especially (NSW is already moving in this direction), abolish the ridiculous anti-wind planning laws that breach every planning principle under the sun by giving objectors an effective right of veto. The laws are a spurious fabrication of climate sceptics and the environment reportage of The Australian, and a relic of family favours by patrician former premier Ted Ballieu. Without those laws, the handbrake would come off and Victoria could enjoy a wind boom like South Australia’s.

4) Lift the renewable energy target. Before they reinvested billions in coal-fired generation, AGL argued the RET could increase to 40% by 2020. ACT is well on the way to 90% renewables by 2020. If the PM wants Australia to become an affordable energy superpower, we have world-beating free sun, wind and wave energy — and, if you talk to scientists, it would be no problem theoretically to export by cable to Asia.

That’s just four, and we could go harder. Given we’re ditching the mining tax, maybe we can axe the diesel fuel rebate for miners — they’re certainly expecting it. Create a national feed-in-tariff regime to make rooftop solar even more economic and lower wholesale electricity prices. Electricity privatisation in Queensland and NSW is a big one — watch the fine print — and land management, too.

These direct actions are entirely compatible with our current system of government. No revolution is required: all we have to do to solve climate change is unplug fossil fuels, plug in renewables, and stop chopping down forests. If we can’t do that — as the sub-title for Naomi Klein’s forthcoming book This Changes Everything declares — it’s capitalism versus the climate, and there’s no doubt which will win.

25
  • 1
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    If we totally ban carbon, the next change of government will throw out the ban and we will be back to square one. The democratic solution is to tax it to billy-oh and reduce income tax in proportion. When the government changes, they can reduce carbon tax and increase income tax. Industry can then plan on a gradually increasing carbon tax.

    Levelling the playing field can be achieved if all carbon coming out of the ground is taxed at a low rate. Accountants hate the word “all”, because it leaves no loopholes to drive trucks through. However it does make it easier for them to claim a carbon rebate when their industry exports goods. Accountants can then look forward to sending goods overseas that have paid no income tax and no carbon tax. That should keep ‘em happy.

  • 2
    cartoonmick
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes Paddy, you’re so right in saying it’s capitalism Vs climate.
    It’s up to the politicians to ignore the Big Biz end of town and start listening to the Scientists.
    Where there’s a will there’s a way, as they say.
    It can be done with strong leadership in the right direction.

    Unfortunately, I feel that won’t ever happen until it’s too late in the day, when the rich end of town will be starving as much as the bottom feeders.

    Besides, when did Big Biz and the politicians know more about the climate than the scientists?

    Maybe this cartoon shows where we’re heading …

    http://cartoonmick.wordpress.com/editorial-political/#jp-carousel-775

    Cheers
    Mick

  • 3
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    So in summary, Crikey business editor says to business: stuff ‘em.

    This article reads like a green-left anti-capitalist rant.

    We aren’t facing a “climate emergency” Paddy. The world hasn’t warmed for at least 15 years. Nothing is going on with the climate. Take a chill-pill and relax, dude. Everything is going to be fine.

  • 4
    Raaraa
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I might be going into tin foil hat territory here but, aside from the risks of death from dodgy pink batt installation, could some of the opposition to it come from people who actually want the consumers’ consumption of energy to remain high?

  • 5
    Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    @Tamas - tell that to the Insurance Industry. In fact Tamas how about you take your Home Insurer to court over increasing premiums due to them factoring in the risk of climate change. Get your skeptic friends together and do a class action. Put your time and money where your mouth is and get back to us when you’ve had your day in court.

  • 6
    Bo Gainsbourg
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    yep. Solar has more jobs than coal now anyway, and this would put that and new wind jobs on steroids. Gives business bucketloads of certainty. The public (remember them?) would understand it and support it. IPA would be happy as we’d be slashing subsidies to fossil fuel (surely!?) I like it.

  • 7
    Mike R
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    According to Tamas. Move on, nothing happening here.

    If you choose the conditions very carefully i.e .you choose dates to get the desired result over a relatively short term enough and only select the right dataset and also ignore ocean temperature increases you can indeed get Tamas’s answer.

    Even if you accept Tamas’s premise then , averages by nature ,conceal what is happening at local level such as in the Arctic (http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/greenland ) where the chickens are already coming home to roost. Let alone some time in the future, when the chickens succumb to heat stroke and fall off their perches.

  • 8
    Liamj
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    If we’re going to go crazy and start making public policy in the public interest instead for the profits of predatory multinationals that happen to fund the IPA & employ old politicians, then how about government legislates to excuse itself from compensating farmers or other landholders from any climate extreme beyond the 150 record. Then we’d quickly see the real welfare bludgers come squealing to the negotiating table.

  • 9
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    These ideas look good but there are problems.

    1. Banning thermal coal is the best of the 4 ideas. Coal as a source of energy is declining and likely to continue so.

    2. We can only follow the USA from coal to gas with fracking. As every year 12 student in 2014 has become an instant expert about how bad fracking is, the lights of Melbourne will go out when the Latrobe Valley brown coal stops.

    3. It’s not climate sceptics that stop wind farms FFS. It’s nimbys concerned about falling property values if the turbines can be seen from their front door. Oh, and deep concern for the orange bellied parrot of course.

    4. The RET is a gift to corporate rent seekers like no other. If 40% of all power must be purchased from renewables, the high price is locked in by legislation and the corporate investors are laughing all the way to the bank while we all pay too much for electricity. Nuclear and Gas are untapped energy opportunities that are penalised through regulation.

  • 10
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think so Raaraa.

    The pink batts fiasco was a complete stuff up in the way it was executed by the Rudd government, not a conspiracy to consume energy. It was a gift presented to Tony Abbott on a plate and he exploited it ruthlessly.

  • 11
    rhwombat
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Keep swallowing Calderwood - otherwise you’ll drown.

  • 12
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Heck, if we are really going to protect the climate by banning stuff, we will have to go over the top. Some amendments are in order…

    1) Approve no more new thermal coal mines. Add “or coking coal”. Also “mines or power stations”. Since gas contains carbon, we should also add “or gas”.

    2) Phase in greenhouse gas emission standards for power stations. Add “and gas lines”, because they leak methane like blazes. In fact, penalise methane in proportion to its weight as a greenhouse gas.

    3) Abolish anti-wind laws. Add “and anti-nuclear laws”. After all, what will power our heavy industries after we’ve stamped out carbon?

    4) Lift the renewable energy target. Whaddyer mean “renewable”? If we’re against carbon, we gotta say so. make that “Lift the non-carbon energy budget”.

    There. That oughta do it.

    Er, that is, unless the article was just one more green-left anti-climate rant. ;)

  • 13
    paddy
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Ah Paddy, we share more in common than just a name.
    Direct and to the point. Way to go!

  • 14
    Robert Brown
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Yes! Let’s do it.

    And let’s have a plan for decommissioning the remaining coal mines too.

  • 15
    CML
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - The pink batts program was neither a ‘fiasco’ or a ‘complete stuff-up’. Have you read any of the eight or nine inquiries into this affair? Some were actually featured in Crikey a few years ago. If you had, you would realise that: 1) Less people died during this program than was the case in the insulation business over the previous few years, and 2) There were fewer house fires because of insulation installation defects during the pink batts program, if you take into account the actual number of houses insulated, and match that with the equivalent number in the preceding years.
    All industrial accident deaths are a tragedy, but the numbers would suggest that in the construction industry there are MORE deaths in any given time frame than occurred during the pink batts program. People like you believe the cr+p because it suits your side of politics.
    Very, very cynical - especially where Abbott is concerned. It was always about political point scoring, and very little to do with the families involved. Good on Paddy Manning for telling it like it is, at last. The insulation program worked, because it is part of the lowering of the energy demand we have seen over the past few years. That was the original objective, and it has been achieved.
    Can’t wait for more LNP spin when the findings of the RC are released. Shame on Abbott and all his followers, including you. But then what should we expect from a bunch of brain-dead, anti-science, climate change denier extremists?!!

  • 16
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    didn’t we decide to do this 20 years ago?

  • 17
    Luke Hellboy
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Ah tamas, the bliss of ignorance… do you by any chance play the fiddle, so that we may have some musical accompaniment as the world burns?

  • 18
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    No revolution is required: all we have to do to solve climate change is unplug fossil fuels, plug in renewables, and stop chopping down forests”

    If it’s so easy, why has no country (without buckets of hydro suitability or living on top of a magma chamber) done it? Could it be it isn’t quite so simple? The only first world country that has decarbonised to the extent required without those uncommon natural endowments is France - and they didn’t do it with renewables.

    And ‘stop chopping down forests’? Overwhelmingly, the major direct cause of deforestation is agriculture (mainly subsistence), not industrial logging. So as well as keeping the third world restricted to expensive unreliable energy, we should starve it as well?

  • 19
    john ferris
    Posted Monday, 11 August 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Tamas should read this from NASA http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators/

  • 20
    Steve Case
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    … it’s capitalism versus the climate … “

    Tells me all I need to know about Paddy Manning & Crikey.

    It’s the free world, free markets and capitalism that the left-wing, big government, central planners hate.

    Environmentalism is just an excuse for them to get their way.

  • 21
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    What’s happened to your moderators, Crikey?
    I wrote a comment at 4.19pm which is still not released.
    Why????????

  • 22
    Liamj
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    @ Steve Case - could you identify which bits of the world are “free world, free market & capitalist”? Aus is hardly capitalist, we have no capital (expresso machines don’t count), and not free market, given that most sectors are mono/oligopies. Half of US economy is war socialism, and they’re ‘free world’ only if you’re white & rich & support the government. China is pretty capitalist but not free, and the EU is socialism gone mad according to our ‘free’ but heavily subsidised by tax-avoidance press.

  • 23
    tonyl
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Dear Tamas. I read this 15 year hiatus thingo from you yesterday in another post but at the time couldn’t be bothered answering. The reality is that the earth’s energy imbalance (energy from the sun in - energy radiated back into space from earth) is 0.85 +/- 0.15 watts/m2 . Over the whole surface this adds up to the energy equivalent of 4 Hiroshima size atomic bombs/second. This is not calculated or modelled or guessed at by greenies. It is measured by instruments on satellites. So where is it? It’s currently mostly in the oceans and yes, measured again (look up Argo). Some time in the future it will inevitably result in more warming of the atmosphere. Please do some reading from reputable sites, it’s embarrassing.

  • 24
    Andrew Dolt
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Tamas Calderwood, Steve Case and others of their ilk really do not need to worry about global warming, because they don’t live on planet Earth. They actually live in a half-baked fantasyland constructed out of lies by the fossil fuel industry and Rupert Murdoch specifically for the gullible. They really need have no fear of facts, because they have substituted their own ignorant opinions and prejudices for them. They are quite safe in Moronworld.

  • 25
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    @Lockie Histo – do you contribute no more than ask a loaded question and run away, like a common troll? If you want us to seriously consider the contribution of methane from modern volcanoes, you need to quote the quantity as a fraction of GHG emissions, and a reputable source.

    I think you have not quoted a significant measurement because you can’t find one.

Womens Agenda

loading...

Smart Company

loading...

StartupSmart

loading...

Property Observer

loading...