10 July 2011 – Following are reactions to the carbon price package from the Green Building Council of Australia,  Energy Efficiency Council, Climate Active Australia, Climate Institute, the Australian Conservation Foundation

The Green Building Council of Australia’ chief executive, Romilly Madew said:

The Green Building Council of Australia, welcomed the Australian Government’s carbon price scheme, Securing a Clean Energy Future, but said more needs to be done to capitalise on the opportunities of Australia’s built environment.

The Australian Government’s proposed carbon price of $23 per tonne has been long-awaited by the GBCA, as we believe it is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways for Australia to meet its international carbon reduction targets, while at the same time boosting investment in green technologies and stimulating new sectors of the economy.

However, as buildings are responsible for 23 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, a carbon price scheme must be complemented by a range of integrated measures that support greater energy and building materials efficiencies within the property and construction industry.

As we have long maintained, these complementary measures should include energy efficiency incentives such as tax breaks and white certificates, investment in research, development and commercialisation of low-emissions technologies, and mandatory disclosure. Strong collaboration between government, industry and non-government organisations has also been identified as required to overcome the current market failures and skills gaps.

This is why the GBCA applauds today’s release of Securing a Clean Energy Future, which includes measures such as:

• a national energy savings scheme, the “Living Greener” website
• the Clean Technology Program
• energy efficiency information grants,
• the Low Carbon Communities initiative
• Low Income Energy Efficiency Program
• The Australian Renewable Energy Agency unveiled last week.

The GBCA believes these initiatives will indeed help kick-start the low carbon economy and provide the support and incentives necessary for the built environment.

The GBCA’s paper, Putting a price on pollution: what it means for Australia’s property and construction industry outlines the challenges and opportunities that a carbon price presents for a range of stakeholders within the property and construction industry, including owners, developers and manufacturers for whom the $9.2 billion in industry assistance and adjustment will be vital.

The carbon price, backed by complementary measures, can lead to better-informed building choices, with less efficient, more carbon-intensive developments being overlooked in favour of well-designed, more-efficient, healthier and more productive buildings and communities. We look forward to working with the Australian Government to embrace the opportunities of a low-carbon and clear energy future.

Putting a price on pollution: what it means for Australia’s property and construction industry is available here www.gbca.org.au/carbonpaper

The Energy Efficiency Council: a chance for the future and the economy

Rob Murray-Leach, chief executive of the Energy Efficiency Council said:

This package is the best chance for the future of not only our planet, but of our economy.

Take a look around – the global economy is changing. China is the new global economic superpower. The prices of coal, gas and oil are rising rapidly. The new rule is that companies have to be efficient and innovative to thrive.

This means businesses have to change. This package gives companies the incentives and the support that they need to become really strong in a new global economy.

Australia has an amazing opportunity. Energy efficiency and cogeneration can save households and businesses over $5 billion a year and cut their emissions by over 50 Mt a year. They’ve just needed incentives and support to help them do it.

The carbon package has over $1.5 billion in support for energy efficiency, which will help households save money and keep businesses competitive in the 21st century.

The government’s climate change package boosts productivity in three important ways. A lot of attention is going to be given to income-tax reform, which boosts participation, but just as critically this package will:
• Help businesses become more energy efficient and innovative, and that will keep them globally competitive in the 21st century
• Shift our energy system from an incredibly wasteful model to a smarter mix of local energy plants, energy efficiency, renewables and smarter fossil fuel generators. This will save billions of dollars in infrastructure and help keep electricity affordable.

Look at how wasteful our outdated technology is making us. A coal generator and a standard light-bulb turn less than 2 per cent of the energy in coal into light it’s a joke, and a joke that we pay for.

In contrast, a modern cogeneration system and a compact fluorescent bulb get five times as much energy out of the light. Think of the economic benefits if we got just twice as much energy out of each drop of fuel?

From Ross Garnaut reported in Crikey:

This is a strong climate change policy package. It will allow Australia to do its fair share in an effective global effort to reduce the risks of climate change, and to do so at reasonable cost.

I attach particular importance to the governance arrangements for the emissions trading scheme. The arrangements for adjusting targets, including through the role of the Climate Change Authority, allow appropriate flexibility in response to international developments within a stable and predictable framework. The arrangements for reviewing assistance to trade-exposed industries, including through the role of the Productivity Commission, introduces economic discipline in decisions of large consequence for national economic performance.

The treatment of the land sector will encourage new forms of carbon sequestration that create important opportunities for rural Australia. Here our pioneeering role in measuring and rewarding sequestration in soils, pastures, woodlands and forests is likely to have international influence.

The package has emerged from a policy-making process that allowed consideration of a wide range of issues and advice. I congratulate the Prime Minister and her colleagues in the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee for the sound process and on the good outcome for Australia and the international community.”

Climate Active Australia: Not good enough, or fast enough

It is a historic step forward for Australia to be finally taking  action to price carbon. The time for talking is over as the damaging  impacts of global warming become ever more apparent. By acting to  reduce emissions, the politics of delay and denial will become a  historic relic.

However the long delay in acting makes our challenge today bigger  and more urgent than ever. The aspirations of the carbon pricing  scheme are low in comparison with what the science community tells us  we need to do to avoid great damage to Australia’s economy, our  environment, and the way we live.

This legislation places new responsibilities on all those concerned about the human-induced climate disruption to ensure that the price of carbon steadily  and rapidly rises so as to encourage renewable energy industries and  to discourage an expansion of gas-fired power.

This  increasingly seems  to be impossible under an ETS framework, if the European experience is  any guide.

The proposal is a compromise between players with different, and  often opposing interests, and is far from being as ambitious and  science-driven as the community climate action movement understands is  necessary.  We are concerned that too much compensation to big  polluters can lock in aspects of the brown economy.

Statements from the prime minister that Australia’s coal industry will continue to expand are frightening and suggest that some in the Labor government  have chosen not to understand the depth and urgency of the climate  change challenge.

Real action on climate means winding down coal  exports, and ensuring that no new coal mines are opened.

A large gap remains between political will and the scientific  realities, and the scheme’s targets must be lifted over time, together  with an industry plan for skills, jobs and investment to build the  clean, renewable energy economy.

The national carbon reduction targets  must rise rapidly, so as to respond appropriately and urgently to what  the climate science is telling us.

Transparent governance, especially for the independent Climate  Change Authority recommending future targets and carbon budgets,  allows policy to be recalibrated to the science over time.

An independent commission to regularly review the science, Australia’s  role and international developments in order to make yearly  recommendations to government, provides an ongoing process of public,  community engagement in climate policy.

The new independent statutory body, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, creating whole-of-government management of $3.2  billion of renewable energy funding at arm’s length from government,  is a big step forward.

It represents one of several instances where the role of the independents and the Greens in negotiations has  improved the outcome. Its long-term worth can be guaranteed by locking  in and expanding recurrent annual funding  for at least the next  decade, to provide certainty for the industry regardless of the  complexion of government in Canberra.

We strongly support action to start closing Australia’ dirtiest coal- fired power stations, but the intention must be matched by a plan to  start now.

The level of greenhouse gases and future  warming is now greater than at any time since modern humans walked  this planet, so thinking we can continue greenhouse gas emissions for  many decades to come is a fatal mistake.

The major credit for this limited but very significant step forward must go to the Australian Greens, which with the assistance of the 160 grass roots Climate Action Groups around the country forced the Government to embrace the above policies.

The Climate Institute chief executive officer John O’Connor:

These policies will finally break a political deadlock which has seen our politicians squabbling and dithering for over a decade.  If passed by Parliament the scheme will start half a decade after John Howard first announced his backing for a price and limit on pollution, an emissions trading scheme.

This policy package will also help break an investment deadlock which has stalled investment, not only in clean energy, but in Australia’s overall power generation.  Energy experts have shown that further delay will increase electricity prices and cost the economy billions, with investors forced to second guess the politics and invest in plants cheaper to build, but more expensive to operate.

Driving pollution reductions
A legislated policy package will be a welcome boost for global carbon pricing momentum. Australia also now has a more credible policy platform to achieve internationally committed, bipartisan backed, 2020 pollution reduction targets of 5 to 25 per cent reductions below 2000 levels.

As well as setting a price, this package also provides for ever tightening limits on pollution to be set after three years with a clear switch to an emissions trading scheme.”

Unlocking clean energy
A pollution price is necessary to drive industrial scale investments in cleaner energy and cleaner industries but, as experts at the International Energy Agency conclude, additional policies for renewable energy are also needed to help achieve long range targets more cost effectively.”

To that end, the extra $10 billion dollars made available for innovative loan guarantees through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is welcome. This support has the potential to provide much greater confidence in investing in Australia’s abundant but still emerging clean energy resources such as solar, geothermal and wave. However, the details of the investment mandate, and how it addresses clean energy market failures, for this corporation will be critical.

Properly combined with the consolidation of renewable energy programs and the multi-billion dollar investments to be driven by the Renewable Energy Target legislation, there is a bright and exciting future for Australia’s clean energy.

Energy efficiency and carbon farming
The Climate Institute particularly welcomes the package of measures and commitments on energy efficiency and National Electricity Market reform.

Merging piecemeal or absent state energy savings schemes into a National Energy Savings Initiative will help Australia catch up to the energy efficiency improvement levels of competitor countries.  Crucially it will also help households and businesses manage energy bills which are rising for reasons other than carbon pricing.”

The Climate Institute also welcomes the linkage of the Carbon Farming Initiative to the carbon price mechanism and the $200 million support for landholders so crucial to developing this important new regional industry that Professor Ross Garnaut says could rival the wool industry.

The increased ambition and mechanisms in the commitment to achieve 80 per cent pollution reductions, not just 60 per cent reductions, by 2050 is welcome but will need to be strengthened further. If Australia is serious about helping achieve the UN objective it has signed up to of keeping global warming to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, 80 per cent by 2050 with comparable and equitable global action is insufficient.”

Improved governance
There is much needed independent institutions and mechanisms enabling expert reviews and advice about the realities of the science as well as the realities of global action.  The value of external review has already been demonstrated by the Productivity Commission and the Garnaut Review, which both recently debunked the idea that Australia is at risk of leading the world in climate action.

The Climate Authority’s “rolling budget” and other advice, and the public response required from the Government, is a crucial step forward in independent governance and scrutiny.

Maintaining incentives for households and industry
While we share concerns that vulnerable Australians on allowances like NewStart maintain their comparative disadvantage, we welcome the fact that all low income and vulnerable households will be substantially better off.

The householder support is important as big polluting industries, the primary focus of these policies, make the switch to cleaner production and energy use. This means households can only gain from their efforts to reduce energy use.

While there are some process improvements, The Climate Institute is disappointed by the retention of over-generous assistance and the onus of proof for trade exposed big polluters. We’ll be doing what we can to remove unwarranted assistance as soon as possible.

This pollution policy package is a welcome and vital step forward and The Climate Institute calls on all politicians to support its passage through Parliament.

Breaking the deadlocks that have hampered action on carbon pollution and climate change is crucial.  If this package is passed later this year then we can move through the fog of fear and misinformation on climate action and focus on the far greater risks and opportunities.

The Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry:

Today’s package is so important because it lays the foundation for Australia to finally start seriously acting on climate change.

This package is not perfect, but it is absolutely essential Australia gets started.

We commend the multi-party committee for establishing a $10 billion clean energy finance corporation, as proposed by ACF, to drive large-scale investment in renewables.

The starting price of $23 per tonne of carbon pollution from 1 July 2012, rising by 2.5 per cent every year for three years, is less than ACF called for, but we welcome the establishment of an independent Climate Change Authority to recommend targets when the emissions trading scheme commences as a way of taking some of the partisan politics out of building a clean energy economy.

We also welcome the legislated 80 per cent emissions reduction target by 2050.

The establishment of the $1 billion Biodiversity Fund, as advocated by ACF, is a solid move towards protecting the special places of Australia that naturally store carbon and safeguarding our biodiversity.

While we oppose taxpayers’ money going to coal-fired electricity generators, the use of scheme revenue to accelerate the closure of up to 2000 megawatts of brown coal burning power stations by 2020 should speed up the transition to a clean energy future.

The household assistance package helps those who can least afford cost increases and is welcome.  While ACF welcomes the $1.5 billion for energy efficiency programs, it is vital we fast-track introduction of a National Energy Savings Initiative to ensure all Australians have access to technologies that cut energy costs.

ACF urges all parliamentarians to support this package as the foundation on which we can build a low-carbon economy.