Sunday, 26 July 2009

Blistering blizzards, Batman! Turnbull wants weak national emissions trading scheme just like Rudd - who would've guessed?

Breakdown showing percentages of get-out-of-gaol-free cards availble to greenhouse gas emitters until 2026 in the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill aka U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act 2009.

If you thought that the Rudd Government's plan to compensate industry super polluters was a fizzer (to such a degree that a national emissions trading scheme would see virtually no significant change for the better in relation to Australia's greenhouse gas pollution) then hang on to your hats as Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party pretend to engage with the thorny issue of climate change by putting forward these nine demands:

Specific Issues

1. An Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) should offer no less protection for jobs, small business and industry than an American ETS which is being developed and is presently in the form of the Waxman Markey Bill which has been approved by the House of Representatives but is yet to pass the US Senate. The final form of any legislation may be materially different from Waxman Markey and will not be known until later in the year.

2. To that end there must be an effective mechanism, such as a regular review by the Productivity Commission or a similar expert independent body, to ensure that the Australian ETS does not materially disadvantage Australian industries and workers relative to American industries and workers. The legislation must bind the Government to correct any disadvantage identified by the review process.

3. In order to ensure that an Australian ETS does not simply result in futile carbon and production leakage – exporting the emissions and the jobs – Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed industries (EITEs) should at least be on a level playing field with the United States and other advanced economies and should therefore receive full compensation for higher energy costs until the bulk of their competitors (measured as in Waxman Markey by global market share) face a similar carbon cost.

4. Fugitive methane emissions from coal mining should be treated in the same way as they are in the United States and Europe.

5. As in the Waxman Markey legislation agricultural emissions should be excluded from the scheme and agricultural offsets (eg. biosequestration or green carbon) should be included. Australia's greatest near term potential of reducing its CO2 emissions are to be found in the better management of our own landscape.

6. The scheme design must ensure that general increases in electricity prices are no greater than comparable countries to minimise the impact on all trade exposed industries, to reduce the need to compensate for households and to avoid a needlessly high increase in taxation.

7. In order to ensure continuity of electricity supply, electricity generators should be fairly and adequately compensated for loss of asset value to ensure capacity to invest in new abatement technology and to fund maintenance of existing facilities for energy security purposes.

8. Effective incentives and/or credits must be established to capture the substantial abatement opportunities offered by energy efficiency, especially in buildings.

9. There must be adequate incentives for voluntary action which can be added to Australia's 2020 target.

Besides simply restating some of the broad aims already expressed by government, it appears that Turnbull would like Australia to adopt certain aspects of the proposed U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act 2009.
Yet another watered down climate change bill.
Just as importantly, he does not want to enact our own emissions trading scheme until after the Americans have theirs in place.

Now attempting to tie Australia's legislative response to an American timetable is a nice time waster, as this yet unborn act only passed the U.S. lower house by 7 votes and is facing a hostile upper house before it can be become legislation, with no guarantee that the eventual act will even remotely resemble the current bill or that its final provisions will be seen in a favourable light by the rest of the world.

Indeed (like the Rudd Government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Act here in Australia) in America there are citizens who believe that the proposed Clean Energy and Security Act is so weak that it should never become law, others who simply see it as better than nothing, Republicans in the U.S. Senate who won't rule out blocking it and, many Americans who see it as a free give-away to major polluters.

While Turnbull obviously hopes that he can put off the evil day when he actually has to genuinely address emissions trading, his principle aim appears to be to further increase protection and compensation for Australia's super polluters under any national scheme.
Which may please his mates at Goldman Sachs whilst ever that group is involved with energy and mining industries, but may not appeal to the international community generally because Turnbull's solution seems to favour tariffs.

Turnbull's favourite climate change bill.

Graphic form The Wall Street Journal online.

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