Can Abbott Save The ERF ?  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Australian opposition has announced a rather skeletal new policy on climate change, opting to promote a scheme based entirely on government investment. Its amazing what climate policy can do - the Greens are the economic rationalists now and the conservatives are advocating a quasi-socialist "solution" (albeit an entirely ineffective one). Crikey has a summary - Abbott’s answer to climate change: ERF.

It’s hard to pass judgement on the Coalition’s direct action climate package announced by Tony Abbott this afternoon, because quite how it will work is either unclear, or yet to be announced.

How will the whole package be funded? Well, that’s for later.

Who will oversee this multi-billion dollar fund? That’s for later.

How will it ensure money is well spent? Later.

How will it deliver a 5% reduction in emissions? Well, there’s nothing to indicate it will, but Tony Abbott boasted of consulting with a huge range of industry and environment groups and produced a sheaf of endorsements from them saying the plan could achieve a 5% cut. On closer examination, the endorsements turned out to be industry groups who stand to benefit directly from the fund, like soil carbon companies, coal seam gas energy companies and the National Association of Forest Industries.

Where will all these trees – 20 million of them – be planted? Well, in urban forests or marginal farming land, depending on who you asked, but there was confusing talk from Abbott of also putting electricity wires underground.

How is this a “market mechanism” when the Government will pick the projects? Abbott talked about building a bridge.

What will happen if the rest of the world agrees to higher emissions targets? Well, that’s actually a matter for Kevin Rudd, says Abbott.

In truth, the Abbott fund proposal is a great idea. We should be investing more in carbon-reduction projects, and Abbott is proposing to invest directly in some emerging technologies like algal synthesis.

But the idea that this is going to get us within cooee of a 5% reduction on our emissions with a growing economy and growing population is complete nonsense, regardless of what any self-interested industry might say. There is simply no system here for restraining or slowing our growing carbon emissions. The Coalition has proposed one of the few carbon abatement mechanisms that is even worse than the Government’s CPRS.

John Quiggin has a post on the state of play with climate policy - The circuit breaker.
The Greens have proposed a carbon tax as an interim measure to begin cutting carbon emissions. Although there are strong reasons to favor an emissions trading scheme over a carbon tax in the long run, I think it’s time to look seriously at this option. Here a few points in no particular order.

* since the price of carbon is initially capped under the CPRS, it’s just like a carbon tax in the short run

* the way to dispel public fear of a new tax is to bring it in. Look at capital gains tax and GST, both the subjects of highly successful election scare campaigns (in 1980 and 1993 resp) and both now uncontroversial.

* the capture of the political right by delusionism is now irreversible, as can be seen from the embrace of the obviously loony Lord Monckton. There’s no chance, now or in the foreseeable future of a deal with these guys. In particular, the version of the CPRS negotiated with Turnbull and briefly supported by the majority of Coalition members is unsalvageable in every respect. There’s no way the deal can be modified enough to get Liberal support now, and on the other hand it’s too much of a dog’s breakfast to take to a double dissolution.

* The Greens will almost certainly regain the balance of power in the Senate after the next election. Much as the government dislikes it, they are going to have to rely primarily on deals with the Greens to get legislation through in future. They might as well start dealing now.

In general terms, the government lost control of the debate with the defeat of the Turnbull compromise ETS last year, and has done nothing to regain it. Turning up with the same discredited compromise in February makes no sense at all. This is a time for firm action, not more delay.

Quiggin also has a post on climate quack "Lord" Monckton - My response to Monckton’s conspiracy theory.
Australia is currently enjoying a visit from Lord Christopher Monckton, a former education adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who is here to warn us that the climate change negotiations are a plot to destroy the global economy and impose a communist world government. The plot, according to Monckton is led by President Obama and supported by Kevin Rudd, who are, it seems, communists who ‘piled into the environmental movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall’.

In an interview with Alex Jones, host of the conspiracy-theoretic radio/TV show Prison Planet, Monckton attributed the plot to a ‘“deliberate desire to control population by killing people in large numbers deliberately if necessary”. His co-speaker, Ian Plimer, assented to similar views on the same program.

It might be thought that such views should be enough to consign Monckton to the lunatic fringe. But his conspiracy theory has received enthusiastic endorsement from large sections of the media including such prominent commentators as Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen (though Albrechtsen later backed away a little).

And Monckton doesn’t lack political support. Opposition Senate Leader Nick Minchin echoed his views a couple of months ago, saying ‘”For the extreme Left [global warming] provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of deindustrialise the Western world … you know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the Left, and … they embraced environmentalism as their new religion. ’

The Lavoisier Group, founded by former Labor Finance Minister Peter Walsh asserted that the Kyoto Protocol represented the greatest threat to Australia’s sovereignty since that posed by Japan in 1942.

It is, then, necessary to make a serious assessment of the claim that Kevin Rudd, Barack Obama and the United Nations are engaged in a communist conspiracy to destroy the global economy and seize world power, as asserted by Monckton, Minchin, Walsh and others.

One problem with the theory is that the chosen instrument, a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme, seems grossly inadequate to the task of destroying the economy. Even without the massive exemptions loaded in to the Rudd government’s CPRS, an emissions trading scheme with full auctioning might be expected to raise about $10 billion a year, or 1 per cent of GDP over the next decade. By comparison, the GST raises over $40 billion. No credible economist suggest that the economic impact will be more than marginal.

Even if the world can manage a comprehensive agreement to reduce carbon emissions to near-zero levels by 2050, the best estimates suggest that the economic effect will be to reduce the level of GDP by a few per cent.

An even more puzzling aspect of conspiracy-theoretic claims is that part-time nature of the conspiracy. Most of the time conservatives like Bolt and Minchin treat Rudd as an ordinary political opponents, attacking him for being indecisive and more concerned with spin than substance.

But if Rudd is engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the global economy and institute a communist world government, surely this fact should drive any analysis of his economic policy, health care and so on. Full-time conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones are at least consistent. In the same program as his interview with Plimer, Jones explained how the Obama Administration’s apparently modest health care reforms are actually a genocidal plot.

The Guardian reports that the (lame duck) British Government is calling on people to ignore the "siren call" of the lunatic fringe - Ed Miliband declares war on climate change sceptics.
The climate secretary, Ed Miliband, last night warned of the danger of a public backlash against the science of global warming in the face of continuing claims that experts have manipulated data.

In an exclusive interview with the Observer, Miliband spoke out for the first time about last month's revelations that climate scientists had withheld and covered up information and the apology made by the influential UN climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which admitted it had exaggerated claims about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

The perceived failure of global talks on combating climate change in Copenhagen last month has also been blamed for undermining public support. But in the government's first high-level recognition of the growing pressure on public opinion, Miliband declared a "battle" against the "siren voices" who denied global warming was real or caused by humans, or that there was a need to cut carbon emissions to tackle it.

"It's right that there's rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," he said.

"We know there's a physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to higher temperatures, that's a question of physics; we know CO2 concentrations are at their highest for 6,000 years; we know there are observed increases in temperatures; and we know there are observed effects that point to the existence of human-made climate change. That's what the vast majority of scientists tell us." ...

The danger of climate scepticism was that it would undermine public support for unpopular decisions needed to curb carbon emissions, including the likelihood of higher energy bills for households, and issues such as the visual impact of wind turbines, said Miliband, who is also energy secretary.

If the UK did not invest in renewable, clean energy, it would lose jobs and investment to other countries, have less energy security because of the dependence on oil and gas imports and contribute to damaging temperature rises for future generations. "There are a whole variety of people who are sceptical, but who they are is less important than what they are saying, and what they are saying is profoundly dangerous," he said. "Every­thing we know about life is that we should obey the precautionary principle; to take what the sceptics say seriously would be a profound risk."

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