Australia’s Carbon Reduction Scheme Fallout

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Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his team probably knew that whichever way they went with the Carbon Reduction Scheme that someone, more likely a lot of people, were going to be miffed. 

However, fallout from the release of the 800 page Carbon Reduction Scheme white paper may have taken them by surprise, with the government being relentlessly attacked since its release by green groups and others who expressed shock and dismay at the unconditional carbon reduction of just 5%. In fact, it’s difficult to find any generally positive feedback on the white paper, such is the volume of protests. Regardless, Prime Minister Rudd “makes no apologies” for the 5% unconditional target.

While the white paper offers hope of reductions of up to 15%, that end of the scale is entirely dependent upon all other developed countries agreeing to at least that amount, which Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says is unlikely. Wong’s views may be a self-fulfilling prophecy as many fear Australia’s 5% has set the benchmark that other countries will follow. 

Even at 15%, many environmental organisations have stated that it is far too low to prevent the planet from disastrous climate-change related consequences. Groups  have also commented on the raw deal renewable energy has received when compared to support heavy carbon polluters such as the Australian coal industry will benefit from. Even though granted generous concessions in the plan, heavy industries such as cement, aluminium and coal mining are now demanding even more.

A poll currently being run by The Australian shows, at the time of writing, 57% of the 5700 respondents believe carbon reduction targets set by the government are too low.

The following is a very small sample of recent comments on the white paper and targets from various environmental groups, academics and industry bodies.

Matthew Warren, the chief executive of the Clean Energy Council: “A soft start only works if it is backed with aggressive investment signals in energy efficiency and clean technology”
Mark Diesendorf,  deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW “…the white paper is actually undermining the potential for green-collar jobs in Australia.”

Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens: “”Prime Minister Rudd’s 5% target is a global embarrassment and a recipe for global catastrophe.”

Greens Deputy Leader and Climate Change spokesperson Christine Milne: “Kevin Rudd’s White Paper has raised the white flag of surrender on climate change.”
Paul Toni
, WWF-Australia: “Compensation for heavily polluting industries robs the clean industries of the future of vital funding….If Australia wants to dramatically reduce emissions we must invest in new technologies such as wind, ocean, geothermal and solar.”
Julie Pettett
, CEO of Conservation Council of South Australia: “This is not the action of a government serious about climate change… In our challenge of combating climate change this barely even constitutes a target!”
University of Adelaide Climate Change Professor Barry Brook: “…such a pitifully inadequate attempt to stop dangerous climate change that we may as well wave the white flag now.”

Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry: “ACF is deeply concerned about the billions of taxpayers’ dollars that this scheme plans to hand directly to the big polluters, with virtually no strings attached.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific: “”That’s not a target, it’s a betrayal…..Mr Rudd has caved in to the bullying tactics of the coal and other polluting industries.”

One of the few groups to find good in the white paper was the Australia Industry group who said the Carbon Reduction Scheme was “a positive compromise but a stretch“. The AI group partners include the Mining & Energy Services Council of Australia.

The Opposition is yet to comment on the white paper and will no doubt prepare their feedback knowing full well the issue is possibly one of the hottest potatoes in Australian political history.