Polluters should pay not just taxpayers and public investment is crucial in clean energy technology Media Release

Jan 27, 2011 - 2:00pm

The need for climate extreme levies, such as the flood levy announced today by Prime Minister Gillard, will likely increase unless there is strong domestic and global action on pollution and climate change, The Climate Institute said today.

While The Climate Institute agreed that putting a price on pollution is vital, it will not completely replace the need for public investment in developing clean energy technologies – and we’re disappointed at the scaling back of low pollution investment schemes.

“It is critical that polluters, not just taxpayers, begin to take responsibility and contribute to reduce our carbon pollution, develop cleaner industries and help prepare Australia for the increasing number of climate extreme events to come from accelerating climate change,” said John Connor, The Climate Institute CEO. 

“No-one is shedding a tear for the demise of the ‘cash-for-clunkers’ program but slashing investment in utility scale solar or carbon capture and storage technologies, let alone solar hot water programs, is extremely short-sighted.

“These public investments are crucial to develop cleaner energy industries even with a price on pollution. 

“It is remarkable that carbon abatement programs have been singled out while fossil fuel subsidies, such as fringe benefits tax breaks for car use and diesel fuel rebates for miners remain untouched.

“Climate change is not just about warmer weather it’s about wilder weather and the devastating economic costs that we’ve seen from recent floods, bushfires and droughts will mount without decisive action on pollution and climate change.”

“Whether the recent events are related to recent global warming or not may remain in question, but there is no question more climate extremes are predicted to come and they will increase the cost of living and working in Australia. 

“An extreme weather event levy could become the ‘new normal’ as we see more climate-change fuelled weather wreak environmental, social and economic damage across Australia.

“The Queensland and Victorian floods have highlighted the economic costs from extreme weather touching virtually all sectors of the economy - climate change is far from just an environmental issue, it is an economic one.” 

Coming off the back of the warmest decade on record, the Queensland floods are in line with forecasts from scientists who warned the Queensland Government that the state would be threatened by higher flood levels from intense torrential downpours brought on by climate change.

Recent extremes in weather include:

  • Globally, the decade 2000 to 2010 was the hottest on record—almost a half a degree hotter than any decade between 1961 and 1990—confirming the long-term warming trend.
  • The Queensland floods look to be the most costly natural disaster in Australia’s history, likely to cost many billions of dollars.
  • According to University of Melbourne meteorologist Prof. David Karoly, the floods are associated with record high moisture levels over Eastern Australia and record high ocean temperatures. Despite heavy rainfall in the east, the southwest of Western Australia is still registering the lowest rainfall on record.
  • According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the recent drought that plagued much of Australia for over a decade was the hottest on record; around one degree warmer than anything prior, with the result that the frequency and intensity of bushfires increased dramatically

“The Prime Minister is right to highlight the importance of a price on pollution but that is only part of the job in reducing our pollution, growing cleaner energy solutions and helping global efforts to avoid increasing climate extremes,” concluded Mr Connor.

John Connor on ABC The World Today
28 January 2011



For further information: 
John Connor | CEO, The Climate Institute |   0413 968 475
Harriet Binet | Communications Director, The Climate Institute |  02 8239 6299

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