By Tina Perinotto

3 February 2010 – Green groups – including The Greens, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Energy Efficiency Council – yesterday slammed the Opposition’s climate policy released yesterday (2 February 2010) which they said relied too heavily on sequestering carbon in soil and not enough on other reasonable measures.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said measures would include planting 20 million trees, a $1000 solar panel rebate and soil carbon storage – measures he said were far cheaper than the emissions trading scheme, which the Federal Government was preparing to re-introduce to the senate.

The Greens senator Christine Milne said the scheme was deeply flawed and ignored emissions from transport, investing in public transport and electrifying cars.

“Both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott have studiously avoided making polluters pay, avoided the tremendous potential of protecting Australia’s forest carbon stores and avoided the reality of what climate science demands,” Senator Milne said.

“Tony Abbott wants to hand-pick which industries or projects are the beneficiaries of what will be a massive funds transfer out of schools and hospitals and into aluminium smelters and new coal fired power stations.
“This is a ‘tried and failed’ approach, based on John Howard’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program, which was slammed by the Auditor General but loved by polluters looking for greenwash. It failed because it paid polluters to do what they were going to do anyway.”

Ms Milne said that “of course”she welcome the proposed increase in funds for solar roofs” and that “we again invite the opposition to discuss our proposal to fix the mess the government has made of the renewable energy target.

“There is not a peep from Mr Abbott about how we will turn around Australia’s escalating emissions from transport, investing in public transport and electrifying our car fleet.

“Stopping logging of native forests and land clearing were ignored as immediate sources of emission reductions in favour of a narrow focus on soil carbon.

“While we are as excited as anybody about the potential of soil carbon, there are very big questions about its permanence and accounting. That is no excuse for ignoring it, but it would be folly to rely on this one area as the centrepiece of an emissions reduction strategy.

“It is, of course, difficult to give credit to Mr Abbott’s scheme when he so recently told us he thinks that a 4C temperature rise is not catastrophic,” Ms Milne said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation  said the package fails to deliver the scale of greenhouse pollution cuts needed for Australia to do its fair share in tackling the climate crisis.

“Overall this package isn’t strong enough, it’s not certain enough, and it doesn’t make the big polluting companies do their fair share in reducing Australia’s greenhouse pollution,” ACF climate change program manager Tony Mohr said.??“Without an overall cap on greenhouse pollution there is no certainty that the five per cent cut [promised] would be achieved, let alone the 25 per cent cut both parties have committed to as part of global efforts.

“The package relies heavily on reducing emissions through soil carbon (60 per cent of the claimed reduction), which is not recognised in international carbon accounting rules. ??“This package allows big polluters to continue to increase Australia’s greenhouse pollution under a business as usual scenario, instead of ensuring they do their fair share. ??The Energy Efficiency Council said some media had incorrectly said the EEC endorses parts of the Opposition’s climate change strategy.

“The Energy Efficiency Council has not backed any part of the Opposition’s carbon reduction plan,” said chief executive officer Rob Murray-Leach.

“The Energy Efficiency Council simply provided the Opposition with advice on how much aggressive energy efficiency policies could cut emissions by 2020.”

“The Federal Opposition released a Direct Action Plan on the Environment and Climate Change on 2 February that did not contain any dedicated energy efficiency policies, but stated that the Opposition will develop policies in the future.

“The Energy Efficiency Council believes that, as it currently stands, the Opposition’s carbon reduction plan will drive very little energy efficiency. A carbon reduction plan that does not include dedicated efficiency policies will be expensive and ineffective. Therefore, we are looking forward to the Opposition releasing substantial energy efficiency policies in next three months.”

Mr Rob Murray-Leach said that on its own a carbon price will not push energy efficiency effectively.

“Accompanying a carbon price or abatement scheme with dedicated energy efficiency policies could drive very substantial, cost-effective abatement by 2020. A carbon price of $40-50 tonne and dedicated energy efficiency policies could cut emissions by 50 Megatonnes, which means that energy efficiency could deliver 36 per cent of the carbon cuts we need to reduce Australia’s emissions by 5 per cent by 2020.”

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