Monday, 29 March 2010

Why the CPRS is worse than nothing

Solar Concentrator Array - see the website of Beyond Zero Emissions

Some commentators say that it’s hypocritical of the Greens to vote against Labor's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The line they run is that the CPRS may not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction - better than nothing.

Have these commentators read the legislation, or have they merely confined their research to the government's spin? There is no way the Greens will support this CPRS because it is a "continue polluting regardless scheme" and will make the climate crisis worse.

There's no room for complacency or playing politics on this issue. Here in Victoria, we have now had 13 years of above average temperatures and below average rainfall. There has never been a run like this before. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the average mean temperature of Victoria is now 1 degree warmer than in 1950, and up to 2 degrees warmer than 50 years before that – the equivalent of moving the entire state 400 kilometers closer to the equator.

We all know that the targets in the CPRS are scandalous – they’ve been set by polluters, not by scientists. Even the UN Bali Convention on climate change in 2008 flagged modest targets of 25% to 40%. We have thumbed our nose at the world by adopting a derisory 5%.

The compensation paid to big carbon under this scheme is huge – a reasonable estimate is more than $20 billion. It will be the only new source of revenue to run at a loss.

What do we get for that massive outlay of cash? According to treasury modelling – nothing. We get no reduction in emissions at all in Australia – the little we get will all be imported because there's no limit on overseas offsets!

There won't be a single coal fired power station closing down under this scheme. So why are we doing it? It's because the organized lobbying of big coal has been successful.

The CPRS gives free permits to coal power over the first 5 years. This provides windfall profits to polluters and encourages dirty coal power to continue.
The CPRS actually encourages the growth of highly polluting Energy Intensive Trade Exposed (EITE) industries (such as aluminium smelters) by allocating them 25% of permits free of charge, increasing to 45% by 2020. This is in direct conflict with the recommendations in Garnaut's final report.

The worst part about this scheme has had very little coverage. Once this CPRS is set up, future governments can’t really change it. This is because this scheme makes permission to pollute (a social evil) a property right.

Remember the film “The Castle”? Under our Constitution (see s 51(xxxi)) the federal government can’t acquire property except on "just terms". This means that any future government which wants to take away these rights - or diminish their value - will have to pay huge sums in compensation to the polluters.

The coal industry and their lobbyists are digging a hole they can’t get out of, and they won’t stop digging. They are quite happy to drag us down into the graveyard made by their coal mines – so long as they can clutch their their riches as they go down.

According to Kevin Rudd, the climate crisis is the great moral challenge of our age. So give us real leadership to confront it. Leadership does not mean doing no more and no less than the rest of the world – although in fact we are doing less.
Australia is uniquely placed to take a lead in solving the climate crisis. On the one hand we have 40% of the world's coal exports and we are one of the highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gas. On the other hand, we could cut our greenhouse emissions significantly overnight by stopping native forest logging, and we have abundant resources of sunshine and wind, and other renewables.

We can stop burning coal and meet our power needs from renewable resources. The answers are practical and affordable – and they are inspiring.

Let's ditch this CPRS, and adopt the positive alternative of a carbon tax. And let's start funding the transition to renewable energy - something we are uniquely placed to achieve.

For the sake of our children and the planet, we must make these changes - or have other, far more uncomfortable changes, forced on us.

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