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Get Fact

Aug 22, 2012

Get Fact: is Australia 'going it alone' on pricing carbon?

Tony Abbott likes to say that Australia is "going it alone" on pricing carbon. Is he right? We look at the facts.


Yesterday, chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery said Australians were being duped by “lies” propagated by opponents of government action on climate change.

“We’ve been misled here in Australia,” Flannery told AAP. He was referring in part to claims that “the world isn’t acting”, and perhaps had in mind the Coalition’s consistent line over the last year that Australia was “going it alone” on a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme.

Flannery’s Climate Change Commission’s report, The Critical Decade: International Action on Climate Change, was released yesterday and estimates that by next year, 33 countries and 18 sub-national jurisdictions will have a carbon price in place.

“These schemes could be expected to cover around 850 million people, around 30% of the global economy and around 20% of global emissions,” the report states. Twelve per cent of the world’s population will live in regions with a carbon price, including around 250 million urban Chinese.

So how does this compare to the stance by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on climate change policy? Here’s what he’s on the record as saying on June 21 this year:

“The Prime Minister should be waking up to herself and waking up to the fact that the rest of the world is not taking decisive action by way of carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes. Sure, lots of other countries are doing the sorts of things to help the environment that the Coalition is recommending — they’re taking direct action — but they are not putting in place economy wide carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes …” [emphasis added].

Crikey has decided to put this comment to the test as part of our GetFact series, where we subject prominent claims to a truth test.

Just to confirm Abbott’s stance, on July 8, he was at it again, telling Barrie Cassidy on Insiders that “the world is running away from an emissions trading scheme at a million miles an hour. It’s been obvious since Copenhagen that we’re not moving toward these things, we’re moving away from them.”

Cassidy pressed him on that. Was Abbott sure international ETS’s were off the agenda? “As I said, all the signs, whether it’s America, Canada, whether it’s the rest of the big economies, there are no signs that any of them are embracing a carbon tax or an economy-wide emissions trading scheme.”

The Coalition’s speaking notes, leaked to Crikey last month, state that “it was clear from the recent Durban Climate Change Conference that the rest of the world, including the United States, Canada, India, China and Japan, is not adopting a broad based Carbon Tax model.”

So what are the facts?

The Climate Change Commission’s report found that all developed countries have pledged some kind of action on climate change, and cited last year’s Productivity Commission study of emissions reduction policies in nine countries that identified more than “1000 general ‘policies’ in the United States, around 235 in Australia, 130 in Germany, 100 in the United Kingdom, 80 in China, 70 each in the Republic of Korea and India, 65 in Japan, and 30 in New Zealand.”

Japan has emissions trading in Tokyo and Saitama (comprising 20 million people), and South Africa will introduce a carbon tax in 2013. In Canada, Quebec and British Columbia have carbon taxes on certain products, Alberta introduced emissions trading in 2006 and Quebec will follow in 2013. Finland, Norway Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, China and India have tax arrangements on carbon or resources. The 27 countries in the European Union are subject to an emissions trading schemes, as are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and New Zealand. The US State of California has an emissions trading scheme due to start next year.

But as Bernard Keane noted yesterday, while carbon pricing existed or was planned at a national or sub-national level in China, the US, the EU, Russia, India and Japan, all had some kind of renewable energy target, all had energy efficiency regulation and most had vehicle emission standards — the precise kind of “direct action” championed by Abbott.

On the other hand, some of the significance of ‘action’ was overstated in the Climate Commission report — for example, New Zealand has dragged its heels expanding its trading scheme and the EU’s scheme is struggling with record low prices.

And the solidity of UNFCCC international pacts remain dubious. According to last year’s Garnaut review, “89 developed and developing countries, representing more than 80 per cent of global emissions and about 90 per cent of the global economy, have pledged large cuts and actions” under that year’s Cancun Agreements. At the Durban UNFCCC summit, 195 countries, including the US, China, Japan and India, agreed to negotiate a new international deal by 2015 with “legal force” to reduce emissions, taking effect from 2020. But the Durban Platform could also be interpreted as an agreement to continue talking. India famously held out for the language to be watered down — to “legal force” from “legally bound”.

There are some facts that are not disputed. The Climate Commission notes that Australia is the world’s 15th largest emitter, and the biggest polluter per person. The Coalition has proposed a $3.2 billion plan to meet Abbott’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 5% by 2020, without carbon pricing.

We therefore rate Abbott’s statement that the ALP is “going it alone” on pricing carbon as “mostly rubbish”.

*Any omissions or stuff-ups? What other claims and spin from across the news agenda should Crikey examine as part of Get Fact? Drop us a line with your suggestions …


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58 thoughts on “Get Fact: is Australia ‘going it alone’ on pricing carbon?

  1. Jeepers

    I can’t fault your reasoning, but I’m nevertheless deeply disturbed that the Fib-o-matic in the picture at the bottom seems to have a scale that goes from MOSTLY RUBBISH to MOSTLY RUBBISH.
    Or from M to H I guess?

  2. drovers cat

    The easiest way to count nations doing something about cc is to check if they have a conservative govt. If they do, no amount of weasel words will hide the fact they will do nothing – including the so-called laughable ‘direct action’.

  3. Gavin Moodie

    I think Abbott is changing his criticism to alleging that Australia’s carbon price is the highest in the world, which seems to have more substance if one ignores the government’s subsidies.

    Aotearoa New Zealand has a conservative government yet it has an emissions trading scheme.

  4. sharman

    What the “flat earth society” also leaves out is that Australians are one of the biggest carbon emitters (polluters) on a per head of population basis.

  5. Suzanne Blake

    Flannery has been exposed for what he is, with his colourful cards on the card table outside a inner city coffee shop. He was exposed with his revelation on Sydney Dam, which he said would be empty by 2009, costing NSW Billions in a de-sal plant.

    The Dam has overflowed twice this year and the de-sal plant is rusting, switched OFF.

    Maeanshile Flannery collects his cash for comment income from the Government and live in a waterfront house at Copa Point on the Hawkesbury.

  6. Duncan Farrow

    SB – have you got anything besides “Look over there!!!?!!” ?

  7. rossco

    I would like to know whether Abbott and his cronies know that they are telling porkies and just don’t care or are they just really ignorant?

  8. Jimmy

    SB – So are you saying that because Flannery was wrong once and lives on the Hawkesbury all theses countries aren’t actually doing anything about climate change?

    I am surprised this report was even necessary any one with a computer can find a large number of countries with a price on carbon in seconds.

  9. Owen Gary

    SB = S**#y B**#H

  10. Gavin Moodie

    I suspect that the Coalition believes that it is exaggerating and that ‘exaggeration’ is acceptable in politics.

    There are, of course, numerous examples of Labor’s exaggeration. The most recent prominent example is Gillard turning Abbott’s correct but irrelevant observation that public schools get more public funding than private schools into a claim that Abbott plans to cut government school funding.

  11. Gocomsys

    Is Abbott right? The answer is NO!
    Abbott’s is almost NEVER right. Why evenask the question? Who cares what these types have to say? Ergo: No need for this article or a silly Fib-O-Matic.
    The worst thing of all is the ridiculous MSM “gotcha” culture! Underwhelming to say the least!

  12. Coaltopia

    And news from The Times of India today:

    Plan panel seeks to rewrite India’s climate change stance
    “It has made a pitch for opening the country to a cap-and-trade business in emissions – something that has been strictly off the charts for the country in its international stance.”

  13. Gocomsys

    When I formulated my response I asked myself, how long will it take before the Cr*key trolls commence the expected “Flannery attack”. No surprise, the intellectually undernourished SB dummy responded first.

  14. 2dogs

    Wow just typed into google: “tim flannery 2009 sydney dam empty”

    And what do I get? Page after page of Andrew Bolt. Such a well researched, articulate, well respected mind Blake. This is what he said in context:

    “The cities need drought-proofing by, for example, installing water tanks in all dwellings that can accept them. Because in affected areas the decline in river flow is three times that in rainfall, water tanks that use roofs as catchments are now far more effective than dams for supplying drinking water in cities such as Sydney and Brisbane. Recycling can help too. This needs new investment and in some instances will require state government water monopolies to be broken up. It will cost more, but the benefits in terms of water security and recapture of nutrients in solid wastes are immense.

    Desalination plants can provide insurance against drought. In Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months. Of course, these plants should be supplied by zero-carbon power sources.”

    Entertaining how you want to skip the first paragraph to take the second paragraph out of context.
    So I guess my question to you, oh faithful flying monkey, is, given the context of Flannery’s statement, do you feel that our cities need drought proofing?

  15. Ronson Dalby


    This has been the driest August in NSW since 1995. Due to last summer’s constant rain and the fuel buildup in the bush, we are probably heading into a very dry and dangerous, firewise, summer this year.

    This dry weather, now that an El Nino period is back again, is likely to continue for some years bringing drought once again. We might be very glad to have that desal plant.


  16. Ronson Dalby


    This has been the driest August in NSW since 1995. Due to last summer’s constant rain and the fuel buildup in the bush, we are probably heading into a very dry and dangerous, firewise, summer this year.

    This dry weather, now that an El Nino period is back again, is likely to continue for some years bringing drought once again. We might be very glad to have that desal plant.


  17. Gocomsys

    RE: TROLLS: The Politics of Trolling and the Negative Space of the Internet! Unfortunately this site is particularly infested.
    The way the articles are constructed and the subject matters covered seem to attract the undesirables. For peace of mind it’s time to leave and get well written and researched opinions elsewhere. Fruitful discussions have become rare on Cr*key!
    Further info on “trolling” read: (copy/paste)

  18. dazza

    Coalitions constant line of ‘we are going alone’. Just another BS line from the Aussie tea-party mutters. Consider this, Australia may soon have these professional liars in office with the help of vested interests like the Institute of Public Affairs and of course the News Ltd. Why is the Murdock press allowed to get away with spreading propaganda without facts is beyond a joke.

  19. Scott

    I don’t know about “Mostly rubbish”. Depends on how you look it.
    Every ETS/Carbon tax system is unique. If you narrow it down to country level (removes state based and regional level schemes that share the emission burden between countries/move production around economic zones), and focus on currently operating schemes (removes the “pie in the sky” influence) that target energy (in switzerland, energy production is exempt), it starts looking pretty lonely.
    Maybe “Yes and No” is a better term.

  20. Steve777

    Judging by the conclusions reached in the article, the indicator on the Fibomatic should be over towards the far right.

    Of course the Opposition and its supporters are banking on the truism that a lie, repeated often enough, especially if it’s not challenged, becomes the accepted wisdom. But a simple Google search would indicate that Australia is 20 years to late to be the first to price carbon, that it is just one of many jurisdictions that are pricing carbon or are planning to do so, and that our carbon price is by no means the highest. Opposition spokespeople claiming otherwise are either ignorant or lying.

  21. Arty

    If there is an analogy here it might be comparison with the Tour de France.

    At the start of the Tour de Climate Change, most of the big country teams were in the line up, but when the race started most of those big teams decided to save themselves for the finish.

    However, our Cadell Gillard decided on an early attack at stage 11, and here we are out in front of the rest of the pack. Is this a winning position? Have we gone too early?

  22. Patriot

    “The Climate Change Commission’s report found that all developed countries have pledged some kind of action on climate change…

    When extreme religious preachers, doomsayers and other fringe-dwelling loonies come to my front door I pledge to read the booklets they’re offering…later. It’s dishonest, but it’s the quickest way to get rid of them without offending them. Andrew crook, you are green. And I don’t mean you care about the environment.

  23. Bellaa

    “estimates that by next year, 33 countries and 18 sub-national jurisdictions will have a carbon price in place.”

    It’s not an estimate, it’s a fact. And it’s not next year – there are 33 countries that have a carbon price in place today.
    The 27 countries of the EU (incl. Spain, France, Italy, Austria, UK, Netherlands etc) all have separately legislated emissions trading schemes (that are linked together under the one system) – also Switzerland, NZ, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Australia. These are all operating today. Australia’s is the most recent. Some of those countries ALSO have carbon taxes (on top of the ETS), including the UK, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden. Other countries have smaller scale taxes – like India has a tax on coal and Costa Rica has a tax on fossil fuels.

    Finland introduced the world’s first carbon tax in 1990 – and somehow Australia is “leading the world” or “going it alone”?? I know we seem to think we are the centre of the universe, but it’s kind of embarrassing to say it out loud – and be SO wrong.

  24. James K

    Patriot – when I read your words I actually initially thought of Mr Abbott’s promises to do direct action to fight carbon emissions. all talk and no action. I will do something,… later.

    Then I remembered who you are and of course, you are bagging anything NON-Liberal. I get it.

    You are wrong of course: you ignoring the overall point of the article. That is that many countries are joining the fight…. but I realise you cant admit that… so you will find any sentence that is able to be criticised and that way you can ignore the main point. I get it.

    But you are, and will continue to be, just plain wrong.

  25. Hamis Hill

    Do Australians still pay that $30 tax for flying into Europe now that we have a pricing scheme as well?

  26. Hamis Hill

    Do Australians still pay that $30 tax for flying into Europe now that we have a anti carbon pricing scheme as well?

  27. Hamis Hill

    Your comment is awaiting moderation

  28. Hamis Hill

    Your comments are awaiting moderation

  29. Hamis Hill

    Multiple comments awaiting moderation

  30. Hamis Hill

    Many mild comments awaiting moderation

  31. Hamis Hill

    Inoffensive comments are awaiting moderation

  32. Hamis Hill


  33. James K

    I hate it when it happens to me too Hamis…. and it seems to happen a lot. do we use the wrong words or phrases that trigger something?

  34. Hamis Hill

    Incomprehensible moderation criteria very annoying

  35. Hamis Hill

    Constant comments on incomprehensible moderation criteria very boring.

  36. Hamis Hill

    Almost as offensive as having inoffensive comments moderated.

  37. Hamis Hill

    Very disruptive of debate.

  38. Hamis Hill

    Got a problem there Crikey?

  39. Hamis Hill

    A problem with your moderation?

  40. Patriot

    You cant say Iie or anything with that string, nor any similar words eg. carbon tax Iie, Gillard Iied, Iying Gillard, Gillard the Iiar. All of those are not allowed. Oh, wait…

  41. eric

    Great to see Leigh Sales get stuck into phoney Tony tonight on the 7.30 Report.

    On that performance alone he should’t be OP leader let alone PM.

    He was as bad as Ive have ever seem him squirming and trying not to answer very relevent questions put to him.

  42. geomac62

    I agree with your comment regarding Abbotts inability to answer questions . When the usual ploy of giving a non answer didn,t work and Sales repeated the question he looked inept . When he couldn,t even formulate what is the question he claimed the PM must answer he became an embarrassment . Two or three times Sales asked what is the question and three times he flummoxed about . Bet he wished it was Chris Uhlman doing the interview instead of Leigh .

  43. Liz45

    @ERIC & GEOMAC62 – Wasn’t Leigh great tonight, and on a couple of occasions I thought Abbott was going to do his famous ‘freeze’ number, where he just looks at the person and says nothing! Now that would’ve been something to see! Remember when he made that really gross comment about people being killed in Afghanistan, and he said while on a visit there, ‘shit happens’? He was confronted over that and he just stared at the bloke for a very long time. He’s walked out of press conferences too! Just leaves!

    @SB – For your information, Flannery doesn’t just talk the talk, he also walks the walk. His house is totally self reliant. He has solar panels for all his electrical needs, provides his own water and/or recycles it – has the whole set up apparently, water tanks and all! Your next point is???

  44. Patriot

    Tim Flannery:

    “I think that, within this century, the concept of the strong Gaia will actually become physically manifest.”

    “Once that occurs, then the Gaia of the ancient Greeks really will exist. This planet, this Gaia, will have acquired a brain and a nervous system.

    “..just over the past decade, Gaia is on the threshold of acquiring a brain. The Kyoto Protocol was a first, failed attempt by Gaia to regulate its conditions. Gaia now has a consciousness. Just as we have a consciousness.”

    This man is a dangerous fruit-loop who should be in a padded cell, not living off our largesse and preaching his bizarre eco-lunacy.

  45. Patriot

    Guess we really shouldn’t be surprised by the appointment of a loony Gaia worshipper like Flannery to preach the warmist faith to us. Julia Gillard in The Greening of the Red.

    “Mechanisms which have been proposed for value change range from enhancement of ‘green’ education to revival of those religions which respect Nature.

  46. TheFamousEccles

    I’m sure that Mr Rabbot’s efforts on 7.30 will be displayed as furtfher evidence of massive bias @ the ABC.

  47. Gavin Moodie

    Crikey’s moderation guidelines state: ‘If you wish to complain about our comment moderation, please don’t do it in the comments. You’re welcome to email us with any feedback’ and give the address boss at crikey dot com dot au.

  48. Hamis Hill

    Do Australians still have to pay that $30 tax for flying into Europe now that we have an anti-carbon pricing scheme as well?

  49. Hamis Hill

    Gavin, you’re not very convincing.
    Same inoffensive comment on European carbon tax, let through moderation above, now awaiting moderation. All posters have an interest in this.

  50. Gavin Moodie

    I’m not trying to convince anyone on Crikey’s moderation, merely pointing out its policy and its request.

  51. geomac62

    Now Abbott claims he did read Kloppers statement before the 7.30 interview . Why did he say he had not ? When a journo asked him today why he said he had not the MM said he was answering a question about Kloppers not the report . Black is white white is black and if its not written down its not to be believed .
    I watched that interview and MM twice said he had not read the one page report by Kloppers . On todays reversal of the facts I would not believe MM written or verbal . He obviously thinks the average punter is a fool and can be told anything . Maybe he is right to a degree because a lot are bored by politics and associated antics .

  52. Jimmy

    Geomac – I heard him say he was answering a different question, now I have only read the transcript but I can’t see how their could of been confusion as to the question he was asked and he didn’t correct when she followed up referring to him not having read the report.

    It’s no wonder he doesn’t do serious interviews very often , he stuffs it up every time.

    I won’t hold my breath for it to be in the MSM any time soon though.

  53. Arty

    Tim Flannery is a suitable person to answer questions about the science, e.g. the data, the collection of the data, the validation and understanding of it. He can also speak about the range of extrapolations.

    But the carbon price, carbon tax, ETS and such responses live in the world of economics, and are best dealt with by an economist or a actuary

    The debate is no place for anyone with a sense of humour.

  54. Liz45

    @GEOMAC62 – I thought twice about watching that interview as Abbott makes me feel ill – bad enough to hear him but to see him as well?? Glad I did! Brilliant interview! What I really liked was Leigh’s determination to make him answer questions? Refreshing! I suppose some have reckoned it’s ABC bias etc-haven’t read any, can’t be bothered with the bs any more! Abbott said he did NOT read it. As he himself admitted some time ago – unless it’s written down, don’t believe him. I’d go further – Unless it’s written down in from of a Supreme Court Judge with the threat of legal action if he;s lied , then I wouldn’t believe him!

    I went to the site re ‘Abbott – We’re sick of your lies’ ? Have only had a glance but it looks good to me. Will read later!

    Have people been questioning the science re climate change? I find them so boring and frustrating now. Not worth wasting the time! I find it amazing that people without qualifications want to take issue with at least 1,000 qualified people. I’m sure they wouldn’t be as skeptical with their health? I hope not! A person could die from cancer while they argue with their GP, Oncologist etc.
    Why do they pick on these scientists. I’m not qualified; it makes sense to me; it’s continually being re-assessed and the evidence is apparent. I just shakes me head!

  55. Arty

    Liz45: “…amazing that people without qualifications want to take issue with at least 1,000 qualified people.”.

    Not so amazing. It’s the Dunning–Kruger effect.

  56. Andrew ( )

    @Hamis Hill – Certain words do trigger moderation. You were moderated above for using fl. ying. Had this problem a week ago for using this word. Not sure what the reason this word is moderated but could be something to do with terrorism.

  57. Liamj

    Funny how the mad monk can be a constant liar and still the billionaires love him. Must be they know he lies and are happy with it.

    Now, if only the poor accursed consumers of News Corp & ch’s7910 knew it too… but the jchurnalists know their job is selling ignorance.

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