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Federal

May 19, 2011

Hunt’s climate policy just blew out 30%

With exquisite timing, while Malcolm Turnbull was criticising the Coalition's climate policy, Greg Hunt was confirming his warnings about its budget impact.

Is there a more discredited policy on either side of politics at the moment than the Coalition’s “direct action” climate-change policy? The inability of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt to find any independent experts who take the policy seriously — and the embarrassed responses of experts who’ve been verballed by them — has been the subject of a series of cruel articles in the Fairfax press in recent months.

Last night on the ABC, Malcolm Turnbull, with only a little encouragement from his interlocutor, gave the policy a huge serve that, like his demolition job on the policy in his crossing-the-floor speech at the beginning of 2010, was far more effective than anything Labor has been able to come up with. In particular, Turnbull’s line that the policy was seen as having the virtue of being easily abandoned if climate change turned out not to be real, nailed Tony Abbott’s climate denialism — though of course, there has never been any doubt what  Hunt believes in — he believes in his own career.

But Turnbull’s observation that the policy would “become a very expensive charge on the budget in the years ahead” was very well-timed, because Hunt yesterday casually announced a 30% blow-out in the cost of his own policy.

Speaking to the ABC, Hunt repeatedly said that the Coalition’s policy was based on an average emissions price of $15 a tonne of abated emissions.

Fortunately, we can check that against the actual policy and its costings, released on February 2 last year, which included a breakdown of how the Coalition was going to achieve the bipartisan goal of a 5% reduction in emissions by 2020. The policy contains a table with broad-brush costings of abated emissions. There’s the cheap abatement, from soil magic, said to cost just $8-$10 a tonne (independent experts on biosequestration say that, given the right improvements in measurement, $20-$40 a tonne is a valid estimate, but we’ll leave that for the moment), and the more expensive abatement in areas such as paying coal-fired power stations to reduce their emissions.

Using those numbers, under the Coalition’s minimum reduction scenario, the average price of abatement will cost taxpayers $11.44 per tonne. Under the maximum reduction scenario, it will cost taxpayers $11.21 per tonne. That’s the basis for the Coalition’s $1.2 billion per annum Emissions Reduction Fund.

Yesterday, Hunt changed all that and said the average price would be $15 a tonne. That’s slightly more, though still not very, realistic, particularly if you cost his soil magic proposals at the levels independent experts say are plausible. In any event, it’s a blowout of about 30% in his basic costing.

So either the Coalition has to find another $300-400 million a year to achieve the same level of emissions reduction — bearing in mind they’re pretending “Direct Action” can achieve a 5% reduction target — or they’re now shooting for a lower target. Which is it? We asked Hunt’s office, but they’re still not speaking to us.

It’s possible that Hunt’s new $15 figure reflects an acknowledgement that his soil magic numbers are grossly understated. He told Crikey last year that the process for selecting abatement projects would be based on lowest cost, meaning it not necessarily depend as heavily on soil magic as the original policy, which depends on burying carbon for 60% of its carbon reductions. But who knows? It’s time the Coalition stopped messing about with this rubbish and acknowledged Turnbull’s essential point, that at the moment it isn’t interested in doing anything about climate change.

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33 comments

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33 thoughts on “Hunt’s climate policy just blew out 30%

  1. mattholden

    Yes, your last paragraph nails it – what the Coalition needs to do is acknowledge that its real policy is to ignore climate change, do nothing, pretend climate change doesn’t exist and hope it will go away. Then we can have a proper debate.

  2. Holden Back

    Call me weird but I feel sorry for Hunt. He’s been talking about emissions trading for a long while, and I suspect doesn’t believe in this current Liberal policy one bit.

  3. Pete from Sydney

    just occasionally the Libs do something to admire, and largely it’s either Hockey or Turnbull, this time it’s Turnbull….hopefully Gillard and co can pick this up and get some mileage out of it

  4. klewso

    Since when does a “non-core promise” have to be taken “seriously” – there’s votes hanging off this?
    As for Hunt, he chose this company, and sticks to it!

  5. Johnfromplanetearth

    The last paragraph does nail it, we shouldn’t do anything we can’t do anything about! That big yellow ball in the sky isn’t going anywhere and that is the one thing that determines all life on this beautiful blue ball floating about in this very dangerous universe. We are a speck of dust that can be flicked off the shoulders of mother nature when ever she feels like getting rid of us, what a con job it all is and if anyone listens to that old sourpuss Turnbull then i am convinced you believe in fairies!

  6. Jimmy

    Not a good day for Tony, the UK announcing substantial cuts, putting another bullet in his “why should we move before the rest of the world” line, Malcolm say the policy won’t work and Hunt announces an increase in costs. Now let’s just hope the govt can actually use this.

  7. Son of foro

    Should I hold my breath waiting the genius economist Terry McCrann to get stuck into this? Perhaps world-renowned climate scientist Andrew Bolt will continue his fearless hunt for the truth with a scathing attack?

  8. Penelope

    Spot on Bernard! Great this point is being mooted. I suppose that were Abbott to win the next election he too would give up tackling climate change, drop the commitment to the 5% reductions, and call the idea “aspirational” only, and “a gimmick”.

  9. Acidic Muse

    I suspect what will be much harder for the Toorak Taliban to explain is why conservative UK prime minister David Cameron has just come out in support of a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 whilst they’re only there is still trying to pretend that the science is not conclusive.

    The answer is obvious of course.

    David Cameron is a real conservative who actually cares about the legacy of his generation will be leaving for future ones.

    Oh, and he’s not the personal political pitt bull of a small cadre of mining barons and other neo-feudal overlords whose wealth is almost totally dependent upon fossil fuel intensive industries – and he couldn’t give a shit about future generations because the billions they leave to their own children will ensure the perpetuation of their own DNA – even if that plays out with their descendants living inside a heavily fortified eco bubble

    Still, I sense we draw ever closer to the moment when that pungent whiff of fascism that hath hung like the stench of rotting corpses over this country for more than decade now could very well begin to smell like the death knell of Toxic Tony’s fading dreams of absolute power

  10. Acidic Muse

    Ooops… Dragon Naturally Speaking just had an embolism..Moderator please delete my above post

    I suspect what will be much harder for the Toorak Taliban to explain is why conservative UK prime minister David Cameron has just come out in support of a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 whilst their own fearless leader Toxic Tony is still trying to pretend that the science is not conclusive.

    The answer is obvious of course.

    David Cameron is a real conservative who actually cares about the legacy of his generation will be leaving for future ones.

    Oh, and he’s not the personal political pitt bull of a small cadre of mining barons and other neo-feudal overlords whose wealth is almost totally dependent upon fossil fuel intensive industries – and he couldn’t give a shit about future generations because the billions they leave to their own children will ensure the perpetuation of their own DNA – even if that plays out with their descendants living inside a heavily fortified eco bubble

    Still, I sense we draw ever closer to the moment when that pungent whiff of fascism that hath hung like the stench of rotting corpses over this country for more than decade now could very well begin to smell like the death knell of Toxic Tony’s fading dreams of absolute power

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