Media Release: WATCH Position Statement on the Government’s ‘Clean Energy Future’ policy announcement

Sunday 10th July, 2011

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Our Position

WATCH offers its qualified support to the government’s Clean Energy Future proposal.  We believe it provides a foundation for strong emissions reduction measures, consistent with the scientific evidence.

WATCH holds the following assumptions as the basis for our position…

  • The Earth is a finite system which has a limited capacity to supply resources to and absorb wastes from human activity.  On the basis of compelling scientific evidence, we believe these limits have been reached, particularly with regard to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
  • This overwhelming scientific evidence demands timely, strong greenhouse gas mitigation measures.
  • We believe that because climate change is a global problem impacting all human societies, every person on the planet has a responsibility to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, both individually and in the collectives in which they are members (country; workplace; social organisations; family).  This responsibility is innate, regardless of what others are doing.
  • Time is of the essence.  Because of the increasing frequency and magnitude of climate-related impacts, in line with the upper end of IPCC prediction ranges, we cannot afford to waste further time debating the merits of different methods of carbon abatement without taking concrete action.
  • Authoritative studies have demonstrated that the costs of carbon abatement and adaptation to climate-related damages will increase dramatically over time.  Therefore, we favour strong policy action now as the cheapest method of addressing the climate change threat.
  • We believe in the necessity of a carbon price as an appropriate market-driven mechanism to drive economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reductions, to the level mandated by the scientific evidence, in combination with complimentary government policy interventions.

We also hope that today’s policy announcement will lift the tone of the public debate on climate change policy and move Australia away from the redundant debate about the reality of climate change to focus on how we, as individuals, families, communities and as a nation are going to respond to it.

The Positives…

We see many positive aspects of the Clean Energy Future proposal, including the following:

  • Greenhouse gas pollution will be internalised in the cost of business for polluting companies.
  • The certainty for business and investment planning provided by the $23/tonne carbon price during the first three years of the carbon tax and the $15/tonne price floor for the carbon price when it transitions to an emissions trading scheme in 2015.
  • The target of 80% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050, in line with the recommendations of key scientific bodies.
  • The independent Climate Change Authority to monitor Australia’s carbon pollution levels make authoritative, science-based policy recommendations.
  • The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation to drive investment in the renewable energy sector and facilitate Australia’s transition away from fossil fuel-based energy.
  • No new coal-fired power stations and the buy-out of 2,000 MW of coal-fired power generation from the present grid.
  • The Carbon Farming Initiative, providing that thorough carbon accounting practices are adopted.
  • The household compensation package, given that low income households are most exposed to the costs of both greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation.

Our Concerns…

We also have a number of concerns about the policy that we would like the government to address:

  • That the generous compensation offered to polluting sectors of the economy may distort the intended market signal of the carbon price and thus reduce its effectiveness as a mechanism for emissions abatement.
  • That the reduction in the number of companies to be included under the carbon tax may reduce the incentive for economy-wide, rather than limited sectoral efficiency gains and emissions reductions.
  • That the scheme will forgo an important revenue source in the sale of emissions permits by giving away 94.5% of them to polluting industries, rather than having these companies buy them at the market rate.
  • That the government will repeat the mistake made by the European Union’s emissions trading scheme by setting a weak emissions cap and giving away too many emissions permits.
  • That the Clean Energy Future proposal relies too heavily on the purchase of carbon offsets from overseas, rather than concentrate more heavily on reducing emissions at their source here in Australia.

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Related Links:

Clean Energy Future official website.

ABC News: Climate Change – Pricing Carbon website.

Key climate change related documents.

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