Why was it important for Australia to put a price — ANY price — on carbon? The Australian has a compelling answer today:

The head of one of Australia’s leading power companies has argued that the collapse of an emissions trading scheme and the subsequent lack of a carbon price means that Australia’s next baseload power stations are likely to be coal-fired.

Origin Energy chief Grant King told the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association meeting in Brisbane that having a renewable energy target of 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2020 “made no sense” without putting a price on carbon.

He said a carbon price of $20-$40 a tonne would be required to start making a gas-fired power station more economically viable than one fired by coal.

More dirty power generation — when Australia wants to lead the world in cleaning up its act.

Labor’s emissions trading scheme was a deeply flawed mechanism. But it was a start. And as Malcolm Turnbull — burnt and bitter by the ETS experience — pointed out last night, while both parties can achieve short-term emissions reduction targets they fail to “indicate a pathway to longer-term emission reductions beyond 2020”.

Like Turnbull’s prime ministerial ambitions, on climate change, we are nowhere.