It is not an easy task to try to make inaction a virtue.
So think of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his address to US President Joe Biden’s virtual climate conference with world leaders late last week.
Although he disagreed with the majority of those in attendance, many of whom exceeded already ambitious targets of achieving net zero carbon emissions by any given date, Mr Morrison was upbeat, confident and a man who seemed to be on top of things. destiny of his country.
Australia would focus on delivering the goods rather than making any promises on the timetable for a net zero carbon future, he said. We’re all about the how rather than the when, he said.
With the weaker majorities and an imminent election, the Prime Minister’s reluctance to commit to anything concrete is understandable from a domestic political perspective. Climate policy has been a career killer for much of this century, with at least three prime ministers seen by rivals scoring points.
But there was a statement from the Prime Minister that hit the target.
Our effort to reduce emissions, he said, would be driven by technology, innovation and our vibrant private sector.
It’s hard to disagree. Since 2005, Canberra’s shambolic approach – sudden policy reversals, leadership vacuum, indecision and broken promises – has meant that any progress Australia has made on climate policy has been driven almost entirely by a private sector frustrated by increasingly alarmed at the prospect of being isolated by global investors.
Even so, despite one of the largest rooftop solar penetrations in the world, and as aging coal generators are phased out early in favor of renewables, our carbon emissions have fallen at a much faster rate. slow than in the US and Europe.
How bad is Australia when it comes to global warming?
Here’s how we stack up in terms of production. This graph and the one below measure our carbon emissions per capita or as individuals.
As you can see, we’re right up there, vying for Olympic gold.
And this is how we continued to reduce these emissions.
Although our emissions have declined, we are still world leaders on a per capita basis. And this despite the implementation of a mass immigration policy which should have made our per capita figures much better.
Even China, where emissions rose sharply in the decade and a half of the turn of the century, began to stabilize at less than half of ours.
When it comes to global emissions as a nation, however, China is the clear leader after becoming the global factory in the new millennium. But we still rank alongside the UK, despite our much smaller population. In fact, we are now at the same level as the Old Dart when it comes to carbon emissions.
What price for the future?
It was the Prime Minister’s refusal to set a firm date on a carbon reduction target at the summit that drew the most criticism.
However, it was not just the moment that was missing from the Prime Minister’s speech last week.
We certainly had the who; businesses and households. But despite his assurances about the management, we didn’t have a lot of details on how.
It was planned to spend $ 539 million on new clean energy projects, including “hydrogen poles”. Yet aside from the insignificant amount, this was not the strategy Mr. Morrison’s global peers were looking for.
But if they want to hear about carbon pricing, they may have to wait.
Traditionally, the Liberal Party has tended to rely on free market mechanisms to achieve an economic end. Cutting red tape, cutting public spending, eliminating subsidies and individual choice has always been part of the mantra.
The Australian Labor Party, on the other hand, is still accused of overspending and directly intervening with grants and government-funded programs.
When it comes to the climate, however, these preconceptions have gone astray.
Rudd’s Labor government committed to a carbon price and the succeeding Gillard Labor government introduced a carbon tax, which was to translate into a carbon price. The free market would determine our energy and climate future.
But the program was scrapped by the new Abbott government, which replaced the market mechanism with a subsidy, the Emissions Reduction Fund. It has since paid out nearly $ 3 billion in public funds to polluters to encourage them to change their practices.
Malcolm Turnbull attempted to reintroduce a carbon price through his National Energy Guarantee, via a secondary trading mechanism between power companies. It was enough to tip the balance of power within the party – Mr. Turnbull was gone and Mr. Morrison was installed at the head.
Unsurprisingly, he insisted last week that there would be no carbon tax and no carbon pricing and, again, reverted to direct government aid.
While we have no qualms about taxing the life of tobacco, in a direct attempt to raise funds to cover the health costs associated with the drug and send a price signal to deter Australians from smoking, a price on the carbon is as far away as possible. never.
No carbon tax here – but maybe we’ll pay anyway
More than 29 countries – many in Europe, as well as Canada and parts of the United States – have implemented a carbon price or tax, designed to send a signal to energy companies, polluters and consumers on how to invest in energy production and industrial output.
Despite the political vacuum, Australian households have become the biggest rooftop solar enthusiasts in the world and our utilities have now accelerated their exit programs from the aging coal-fired fleet, with Victoria’s Yallourn being the next to be deleted early.
It’s not hard to see why. Renewable energy is cheaper to install, and saving renewable energy with backup – be it batteries, stored electricity, or gas – has now cut back on coal. They are cheaper to build, operate and are much more flexible.
Even so, when it comes to power generation, a recent OECD report identified our dependence on coal as a major cause for concern.
Without political leadership, Australian businesses risk being stranded by a global community that has embraced a carbon-free future.
Longer term, thermal coal faces huge challenges and even liquefied natural gas – of which Australia has recently become one of the world’s largest exporters – is now in question as a fuel for the world. ‘to come up.
AGL’s recent decision to separate its coal-fired generators into a separate unit, so investors can choose between green power unencumbered by its old power plants, is a sign of things to come.
More broadly, the European Union recently called for a border carbon tax – a penalty on goods imported from countries that do not have carbon prices.
While some of our leaders still debate climate change and energy policy as an ideological issue, the world is changing. Australian businesses have long understood that this is an economic problem.