The average per capita income in South Africa is about US$7000.*

In Thailand it’s $4400.

In Vietnam, $1200.

In Australia, $46,000.

What do these countries have in common? They’ve all introduced, or plan to introduce, a carbon price or emissions trading scheme.

As outlined by Erwin Jackson in Crikey today, South Africa’s move towards a carbon tax (it’s due to start in July) has been a picnic compared with Australia’s torturous experience, fraught with cheap shots, misrepresentations and rent-seeking. South Africa managed to get politicians, industry and experts to work together to draft a functional approach to restrain growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Kind of a non-event, really; not “a major political issue in South Africa” Jackson found.

In the three months Australia has strained under a carbon tax, Whyalla has not been wiped off the map. Elsewhere in a warming world, the Arctic melts before our eyes and warm water bleaches the coral of the Great Barrier Reef.

So is the hysterical opposition to carbon pricing an unedifying spectacle which can be consigned to the vault of political history? Or will we see a resurgence as the election approaches?

If so, maybe the South Africans, and their $7000 annual salaries, may have to show us how it’s done.

* World Bank figures on per capita Gross National Income.

Peter Fray

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