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In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his vision for an America powered by clean energy, traveling by High Speed Rail, and competing in global clean technology markets. Obama set out a clear principle: “[I]nstead of subsidising yesterday’s energy,” he implored, “let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”
Excellent idea Mr. President.
By choosing the future, not the past, President Obama has opened a fierce technology competition with China and Germany, to bring the cost of renewable energy down below gas, coal and nuclear.
Published by ABC’s The Drum.
This week Tony Abbott and the Coalition opened up a new front in their ideological war against climate change action and carbon pricing.
In a move reminiscent of the US Tea Party, renewable energy has become the new target of Australia’s conservative party.
Not content with the ‘blood pledge‘ to repeal the carbon price, Abbott lieutenants Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb announced that a Coalition government would scrap the Clean Energy Finance Council (CEFC). If well designed and administered, the body is a potentially useful aid for Australia’s transition to a 21st-Century clean economy. The plan to abolish the CEFC threatens $10 billion of investment: $5 billion exclusively for renewable energy and the remainder available for cleantech manufacturing, energy efficiency and enabling infrastructure.*
The announcement confirms suspicions that the Coalition is becoming an anti-renewable energy party. This unwarranted position has implications for the domestic renewable energy industry, decarbonising the economy, and the political landscape.
Last week, Griffith University’s Vlado Vivoda argued that renewable energy “makes no economic or political sense” for Australia.
While we welcome Vivoda’s contribution to the national energy policy debate, the conclusions he draws fail to account for the clear imperatives for quickening the pace of renewable energy deployment.
First and foremost of these imperatives is climate change. Given the prominence of climate change in the political sphere, and the fact that it is a key rationale for advancing renewable energy technologies, it is puzzling that Vivoda discusses Australia’s energy future without acknowledging the implications of climate change.
The bulk of Australia’s carbon emissions are produced by the stationary energy sector. To address climate change, this sector will have to shift from fossil fuels and embrace zero-carbon energy sources.
Overview of the Australian government’s proposed carbon-pricing scheme prepared for the Breakthrough Institute.
Last week, the Australian government unveiled the details of its long-anticipated carbon-pricing scheme, which include a fixed-carbon price of $23 per tonne as well as several measures to encourage the research, development, and deployment of renewable energy technologies. In contrast to the death of cap-and-trade in the United States last year, the passage of Australia’s national carbon price legislation is virtually guaranteed. Unfortunately, much of the legislation rests with the magical thinking that international offsets will drive the country’s decarbonisation, rather than full-scale efforts to drive the development and deployment of clean energy technologies.
Under the proposal, Australia will have a fixed-carbon price of $23 per tonne from July 1 2012, before moving to a cap-and-trade scheme in three years time. A Climate Change Authority will be established to advise the government on emission reduction targets and a minimum target of 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 has been agreed on. Starting in July of next year, the nation’s 500 largest emitters (excluding the agricultural sector) will be charged for each tonne of carbon they emit. To assuage voters, petrol is excluded from the scheme and compensation will be available for nine out ten households. Industry will receive $9.2 billion to manage the introduction of the carbon price.
Carbon pricing was not an issue the centre-left Labor government chose to champion. It is well known that as Deputy PM, Julia Gillard advised her predecessor Kevin Rudd to drop Labor’s first attempt to price carbon–the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Under Julia Gillard’s leadership, the party contested the 2010 election with an explicit pledge not to pursue a carbon tax, but after an inconclusive election result the measure was reluctantly accepted as the price of forming a minority government and hanging on to power.
Throughout the carbon price debate Labor politicians have propagated the myth that a carbon price alone will decarbonise the economy. Addressing the Committee for Economic Development of Australia earlier in the year, the Prime Minister claimed “a carbon price will drive another sweeping technological revolution like Information Technology did in the 1980s and 90s.” As I have argued previously, when it comes to clean technology innovation and deployment, carbon price is no silver bullet. Now, with The Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate, the government was forced to concede the limits of carbon pricing and adopt additional renewable energy support measures.
At the weekend, the Gillard government unveiled the details of the long-anticipated carbon-pricing scheme it negotiated with The Greens and lower house independents Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor. Reports indicate that The Greens used their leverage in negotiations to secure billions of dollars for renewable energy projects administered by two new statutory bodies—the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
Throughout the carbon price debate Labor politicians propagated the myth that a carbon price alone will decarbonise the economy. Addressing the Committee for Economic Development of Australia earlier in the year, the Prime Minister claimed “a carbon price will drive another sweeping technological revolution like Information Technology did in the 1980s and 90s.” As I have argued previously, when it comes to clean technology innovation and deployment, carbon price is no silver bullet. Now, with the Greens urging the creation of ARENA and the CEFC, the government was forced to accept that reality.
Published by On Line Opinion.
Carbon pricing has been a difficult policy for Australian politicians to implement and has contributed to the downfall of several senior political leaders. In 2009, Malcolm Turnbull’s own party stripped him of the leadership after supporting the Labor government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Last year, Prime Minister Rudd’s decision to defer the ETS sparked the loss of confidence that eventuated in his downfall. It is no understatement that the current carbon price push is a risk to the Gillard prime ministership. Though carbon pricing has contributed to ill political fortunes, it’s worth remembering that there is more to climate policy than the carbon price.
Climate advocate Joel Dignam asserts that ‘If Gillard’s attempt to put a price tag on pollution fails, climate change…will be seen as a poisoned chalice from which no sane politician could drink.’ He warns that failure to pass the measure will ‘undo years of progress.’ While I appreciate Dignam’s concern, he conflates carbon pricing with climate policy. There are a host of policies to address climate change and decarbonise the economy, the viability of which is independent to the fate of carbon pricing.
Published by Climate Spectator.
A new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week finds that the shift in production from developed to developing countries masks increased carbon emissions of countries that pledged emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol.
The new analysis shows that while the territorial emissions of ‘Annex B’ countries (defined as developed countries with emission-reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol) appear to be stabilising, emissions generated from the production of traded goods increased from 1.6 Gt CO2 to 4.3 Gt between 1990 and 2008 – from 20 per cent to 26 per cent of the proportion of global emissions. Once these consumption-based emissions are accounted for, Annex B countries have increased their emissions.
“[The] study shows for the first time that emissions from increased production of internationally traded products have more than offset the emissions reductions achieved under the Kyoto Protocol,” contributing researcher Glen Peters told The Guardian. “This suggests that the current focus on territorial emissions in a subset of countries may be ineffective at reducing global emissions without some mechanisms to monitor and report emissions from the production of imported goods and services.”
The offshoring of emissions that is now occurring is no surprise given the Kyoto Protocol’s two-tiered mitigation framework and globalising production and consumption. The report’s authors suggest improved carbon accounting to incorporate the embodied emissions of goods and services, yet given the slow pace of international climate change negotiations such a change seems unlikely in the short term.
Whether or not the international carbon accounting practices are altered, one thing remains certain: renewable energy substitutes must be made competitive with fossil fuels. International efforts are needed to ensure that wherever production occurs, it is in economies that are decarbonising.
Tonight, thousands of Australians will switch off their lights for Earth Hour. They will be joined by millions of people around the world united by their concern for climate change. Whether or not you will one of those turning the lights off tonight, I ask you to switch on your social conscience.
While most people in the developed world have the luxury of participating in a self-imposed blackout for an hour, billions of people in developing countries have no choice. For them, even fossil fuels are too expensive.
Published by ABC Environment.
At her recent National Press Club address, Prime Minister Julia Gillard rationalised Labor’s decision to cut its investment in renewable energy to fund the flood levy on the basis that these policies “are no longer necessary” with a carbon price. Last week, addressing the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Gillard argued that “a carbon price will drive another sweeping technological revolution like Information Technology did in the 1980s and 90s.”
Both cases reveal that those advising the PM grossly misunderstand climate and energy policy.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reframed her government’s carbon pricing agenda in an attempt to tap into the chief concerns of the electorate. Rather than making the case for climate legislation with the Great Barrier Reef-destroying rhetoric of her predecessor Kevin Rudd, Gillard is presenting climate change as an economic opportunity. In the words of political commentator Annabel Crabb, the government is ‘…replacing morality with economics.’