Tony Abbott once described carbon trading as “a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one”.

In 2011, he said overseas carbon credit schemes did not reduce emissions and were just “a massive transfer of wealth from this country to carbon traders overseas”.

“It’s money that shouldn’t be going offshore into dodgy carbon farms in Equatorial Guinea and Kazakhstan,” he told the media.

But this morning we learn, via The Australian, that federal cabinet yesterday opened the door to the purchase of international carbon abatement permits as part of the government’s carbon pollution safeguards mechanism, announced today.

Under the mechanism, businesses that flout emissions baselines can be fined up to $1.8 million — so the government has decided to “review access to ‘high-quality’ international permits” to help businesses meet their targets. “This would give companies that exceed their emissions baselines the option of buying either Australian or international permits to reduce their emissions below that level,” the Oz reports.

The Abbott government now recognises what is obvious to all: without a trading scheme in Australia, the government will have no choice but to allow international permits to meet its own limited targets.

Meanwhile, big business have got what they wanted — effectively no limit on their pollution. Electricity companies will be allowed to pollute to their highest levels in the past five years, and miners will be allowed to increase pollution in case they have to dig deeper to get their coal.

The scheme will do next to nothing to reduce emissions or drive the necessary shift in the Australian economy from our carbon addiction to renewable energy. And global capital will continue to look elsewhere for opportunities to invest in the future energy needs of the planet.

Peter Fray

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