Tony Abbott has announced a confusing and sketchy direct action policy on climate change centring on an unfunded multi-billion dollar “Emissions Reduction Fund” that will invite carbon reduction bids from firms and, as expected, a major drive on tree planting and biosequestration. The fund, to be overseen by an as-yet undetailed “expert body” is intended to be a “market mechanism” for polluters such as coal-fired power generators to seek Government funding for lower-emission projects. Abbott also referred to the possibility of unspecified “penalties” if polluters undertook activities that increased their emissions beyond “business-as-usual” levels. A priority for the Fund will be funding the abatement of 85m tones of CO2-equivalent via soil carbon projects. The Coalition has also committed to a $1000 rebate for solar panels or solar hot water systems, at up to $100m a year, and plant 20m trees by 2020 in “urban forests”, although Nationals leader Warren Truss later appeared to say that additional trees would be planted on marginal agricultural land. There will also be investment in algal energy technologies. The entire package will cost $3.2b but no detail has been provided on how it will be funded, with Abbott promising to provide details later. Comment: It’s hard to pass judgement on the Coalition’s direct action climate package announced by Tony Abbott this afternoon, because quite how it will work is either unclear, or yet to be announced. How will the whole package be funded? Well, that’s for later. Who will oversee this multi-billion dollar fund? That’s for later. How will it ensure money is well spent? Later. How will it deliver a 5% reduction in emissions? Well, there’s nothing to indicate it will, but Tony Abbott boasted of consulting with a huge range of industry and environment groups and produced a sheaf of endorsements from them saying the plan could achieve a 5% cut. On closer examination, the endorsements turned out to be industry groups who stand to benefit directly from the fund, like soil carbon companies, coal seam gas energy companies and the National Association of Forest Industries. Where will all these trees – 20 million of them – be planted? Well, in urban forests or marginal farming land, depending on who you asked, but there was confusing talk from Abbott of also putting electricity wires underground. How is this a “market mechanism” when the Government will pick the projects? Abbott talked about building a bridge. What will happen if the rest of the world agrees to higher emissions targets? Well, that’s actually a matter for Kevin Rudd, says Abbott. In truth, the Abbott fund proposal is a great idea. We should be investing more in carbon-reduction projects, and Abbott is proposing to invest directly in some emerging technologies like algal synthesis. But the idea that this is going to get us within cooee of a 5% reduction on our emissions with a growing economy and growing population is complete nonsense, regardless of what any self-interested industry might say. There is simply no system here for restraining or slowing our growing carbon emissions. The Coalition has proposed one of the few carbon abatement mechanisms that is even worse than the Government’s CPRS.