May 30, 2011 - 12:00am
Hundreds of policies to limit pollution, unlock clean energy investments and promote other low pollution technologies are being implemented in all major economies. This is happening even without a new international climate change treaty because countries see strong economic benefits in reducing pollution, increasing energy security and gaining first mover economic advantages in clean energy.
Claims by the Minerals Council of Australia that that some countries are saying they will not sign up to a new round of Kyoto unless the USA, China, India and other major emitters do is not new and does not mean countries are not acting to meet their committed targets. The MCA are either misleading people or not understanding current global talks. Countries agreed last year in Mexico a framework for a greater level of cooperation that covers countries that account for 80 per cent of global emissions and all major emitters. The Mineral's Council is once again using discredited numbers on potential job impacts to justify their calls for mining companies not to have responsibility to limit the pollution they cause.
Australia’s international competitiveness risks being eroded if we fail to recognise that other countries are already moving to reduce their economic dependence on pollution. Australia does not risk leading; Australia risks being left behind.
The realities are:
Driven by an unprecedented level of global action, clean energy investments now regularly outstrip investments in traditional power generation. For example, over the two years of 2008-09, 46 per cent of total global electricity capacity came from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Globally, between 500,000 and 3 million people are now employed in the renewable energy industry and investment in 2010 reached an unparalleled US$243 billion, a 30 per cent increase from 2009. This has not happened by accident. It is the direct result of governments putting in place policies to reduce pollution and build new clean energy industries. Over 100 countries have some type of renewable energy policy target and/or promotion policy —nearly twice as many as five years ago.
Given the breadth of action occurring globally, listing all examples of action is impossible in as short a document .However, it is important to highlight that:
Pollution pricing already exists in many countries and it is growing: Emissions trading schemes already exist in over 30 European countries and in New Zealand. NSW already has a pollution pricing scheme. Emissions trading schemes are also under development in China, California, South Korea and in several Canadian provinces. Effective carbon taxation also exists in Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, India, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and is under discussion in Indonesia and South Africa.
Currently proposed Australian regulation of pollution sources is behind other nations: In the UK, regulations are being implemented that would prevent new coal-fired power stations being constructed unless they equipped with carbon capture and storage. Canada and a number of US states (California, Washington, Montana and Illinois) are implementing or already have regulation that will ensure that all new coal-fired power stations must meet the level of pollution intensity of gas generation. By mid 2009, China had shut down over 50 GW of polluting power generation—roughly equivalent to Australia’s entire generation stock. The US Environmental Protection Agency is phasing in regulation for large stationary sources of pollution under that country’s Clean Air Act. These regulations are projected to reduce pollution from its power sector by nearly 50 per cent by 2030.
Australia is a laggard on promoting energy efficiency: Most major economies have national energy efficiency targets and governments have put in place a myriad regulation and incentives to boost energy productivity. This contrasts sharply with Australia, where the rate of energy efficiency improvement is falling and putting us behind. The nation’s energy efficiency improvement between 1990 and 2006 reduced final energy intensity by only around 0.2 per cent per year. Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States, by contrast, all show improvements of 1 per cent or more per year over the same period.
These policies are not limited to stationary energy sources: regulations that drive greater transport fuel efficiency exist or are being introduced in the EU, China, Japan, South Korea and the USA—all are significantly stronger than those proposed in Australia.
For more information:
Erwin Jackson | Deputy CEO, The Climate Institute | 03 9600 4039