If the Government responds with the right policies, today, the fourth of July, would mark an important step towards carbon independence day. Professor Garnaut’s report adds urgency for Australia’s journey away from the fatal shores of our high carbon economy.

Arriving at a low carbon economy will require policies that create powerful low carbon investment engines to grow the economy and jobs. The Government’s industry focus needs to be on investment and support, not compensation, to assist the transition of our economy to using clean energy and low carbon technologies.

Any assistance for generators or emissions intensive industries genuinely impacted by emissions trading needs to be connected to supporting a transition to clean energy and low carbon outcomes. We broadly support the draft report’s comments in this regard.

Any suggestion to put an ETS on training wheels would require ramping up other measures like clean energy incentives, energy efficiency reforms and public transport investments.

Today marks the start of a critical phase in our response to climate change and it’s important we remain focussed on the main game, there are three key tests.

1. Reversing Australia’s still-rising greenhouse pollution by 2012 – data released last week showed continuing increases with the biggest spikes from electricity generation, up 53 per cent between 1990-2006, and transport, up 27.4 per cent during the same period. We should, and can, reverse this trend by 2012 with reductions of at least 25 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020.

2. Leadership to achieve an effective global agreement Australia can only help to achieve the global climate agreement so vital to our long term national interest if we are committing to reduce our emissions, but also signal that we will invest in clean technology in developing countries and help them prepare for unavoidable climate impacts. A guaranteed proportion of the emissions trading revenues should be set aside for such assistance.

3. Making Australia competitive in the global low carbon economy – Meeting emission reduction targets and building the clean-energy alternatives will generate trillions of dollars of investment opportunities. Australia needs policies to ensure all new electricity load generation comes from clean energy and that support, not hinder, investment in clean energy and low carbon technologies.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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