Abbott and Gillard offer to widdle on the climate change bonfire

ACCORDING to Tony Abbott, only the coalition has a credible climate change policy to achieve a five per cent cut in Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020.

Allow me, if you will, to equate this climate change challenge to a gigantic raging bonfire of all Tony Abbott’s currently and previously-owned pairs of budgie-smugglers which would surely be a blaze three-storeys high visible from Christmas Island.

Presented with the challenge of controlling this three-story high bonfire of budgie-smugglers, what Tony Abbott is saying is that only he has a credible policy to enable him to pee on it, such is the gap between what is being offered and what is needed.

A couple of days ago, I was on a journalist’s panel listening to the three candidates for the seat of Brisbane talk climate and conservation to a group of gathered greenies. Both Labor’s Arch Bevis and Liberal Theresa Gambaro re-iterated their leaders “commitment” to that 5 per cent cut (the Greens candidate Andrew Bartlett pointed out they would be looking for a 40 per cent cut).

At one point  Mr Bevis stated that Labor was following the “science” on climate change, at which point I surmised that you’d be hard-pressed to find a credible climate scientist advocating a five per cent cut.

So what does the “science” think of a five per cent cut?

Well the minimum recommended by Professor Ross Garnaut’s comprehensive government review two years ago, was a 10 per cent cut. This 10 per cent cut, Garnaut said, would represent a fair shake of the sauce bottle from Australia as part of a global effort to stabilise emissions at 550 parts per million in the atmosphere.

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ETS v CARBON TAX = delay

NOW that Australia’s emissions trading scheme has been placed in deep freeze, on the back burner or whatever other analogy you might care for, talk is turning to an alternative market-based system to cut down emissions.

Donna Green and Liz Minchin at newmatilda make a decent stab at suggesting we should have plumped for a carbon tax all along.

Compared with an ETS, a tax is a simpler, more effective, faster solution for cutting emissions. That’s why so many people and major financial institutions — from renowned economists like Jeffrey Sachs and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz to world-leading scientists like NASA’s James Hansen — all back a tax over trading.

Minchin and Green’s analysis of the issue runs over similar ground to that long-argued by the Carbon Tax Center in the US, which also thinks a tax would be faster to implement, encourage more predictable energy prices and be harder to fiddle than cap and trade.

I wonder though if this emerging debate will have a similar effect to the one artificially generated by climate change sceptics over the strength of the scientific evidence backing action on climate change?

Minchin and Green say a tax would be quicker to implement than an ETS. We should remember though that it took the best part of 15 years for Australia to introduce another consumption-based tax, the GST.

What this debate really adds up to is further delays and while this policy uncertainty is certainly harming the renewable energy sector, the same can’t be said for the resources sectors.

In the meantime, why not fiddle around with one of the only policy success stories to come out of the climate change box in recent years – the 20% by 2020 Mandatory Renewable Energy Target?

100% anyone?

By the way… this is the first post of my new blog. My old one is still sitting there with News Ltd.

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