1 July 2013 — Today (Monday) marks the one-year anniversary of Australia’s carbon price, but the fledgling system could be aborted if reports of an election promise to speed the transition to an emissions trading scheme by the newly installed Rudd government prove accurate, or if a successfully elected Liberal government proceeds with its “blood oath” to dismantle it.
Data shows that since the introduction of the tax, carbon emissions from the National Electricity Market have decreased by 7.4 per cent, and renewable energy generation has increased by 30 per cent.
Contrary to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s claims before its introduction, the carbon tax’s effect on the cost of living has not been “almost unimaginable”, having added just 0.4 per cent to the consumer price index.
“The fact is that the clean energy policies we have implemented are environmentally effective, economically responsible and socially fair,” former climate change minister Greg Combet said to the National Press Club last month.
“Anyone who looks at the spread of carbon markets in Europe, China, South Korea, California and Quebec knows that carbon pricing is here to stay as the principal mechanism for the world to avert dangerous climate change.”
Whether this pricing will remain as a tax for the next two years, or whether an ETS will be somehow fast-tracked, is the source of much speculation, and people are looking to the new climate change minister Mark Butler to provide certainty.
Tony Abbott has provided some certainty by saying he will cut either.
Business groups have now recommenced their push for the speedy transition to an ETS, which under the current plan would not occur until 2015.
The Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox recently called for bipartisan support to immediately move to an ETS, saying it would reduce the carbon price by three quarters to around $6.
“The re-elevation of Kevin Rudd to the nation’s leadership is a real opportunity to reset the policy agenda for the rest of this term of Parliament and beyond,” he said in an Australian Financial Review opinion piece.
A survey recently released by AIG found that the construction industry could on average only pass through 10 per cent of the increases in electricity and gas costs, and that only 25 per cent of businesses surveyed had reduced emissions, saying the expectation of a lower or no carbon price in the future had stunted action.
Greens NSW MP Cate Faehrmann, who is leaving state politics to campaign for a place in the federal Senate, said that caving in to business pressure now would be a backwards step.
“I truly hope that Kevin Rudd will stick to his mantra, stick to his belief that climate change is our greatest moral challenge,” Ms Faehrmann said.
“What we have to make sure is that industry doesn’t pressure politics in this country to the point that action is wound back on climate change – moving to a floating price at this stage signals that.”