Letter to The Australian Letter to the Editor

Mar 20, 2012 - 2:29pm

This Letter to the Editor was published in The Australian in reaction to an article  published on Tuesday 20 March 2012. Tim Wilson of the IPA published an opinion piece in The Australian the same day with numerous criticisms of the report. This letter is a reaction to those.

By John Connor, CEO, The Climate Institute

Contrary to much mythmaking Australia is not about to have the world’s biggest carbon price. The Climate Institute’s  Global Climate Leadership Review  released yesterday included analysis of both countries whose price on carbon is higher than Australia’s and others who are just starting to move to carbon prices and constraints, including China, South Korea and South Africa as well as a prosperity focused analysis of the carbon competitiveness of G20 countries.

Tim Wilson, in Taxed to the max on emissions (20/3/12) misses a key point.

Putting aside for a moment that Australia’s carbon price  is not economy wide and both the New Zealand and Californian emission trading schemes are moving towards greater coverage than Australia, our report stressed the importance of the sectoral composition of the different economies among the G20 nations.

If Sweden or Switzerland put a carbon tax on petrol, that’s 30 per cent of their total emissions covered. In Australia it would only represents around 15 per cent (but growing). This is because in Sweden’s case around 99 per cent of their electricity is zero emission while in Australia that figure is a mere 10 per cent. Again in the case of Sweden, the tax on the burning of ‘oil, coal, natural gas and petrol’ would cover 80 per cent of their emissions. Australia’s current scheme covers round two-thirds.

So let me emphasize that countries are tackling emissions differently to reflect their national circumstances.

The unfortunate reality, which Mr Wilson acknowledges, is that “fossil fuels dominate Australia’s profile.” The Institute for Public Affairs seems willing to back carbon protectionism and inaction over acting on the risks of our profile and improving our carbon competitiveness.

The measurement of G20 countries carbon competitiveness in the index The Climate Institute commissioned with global giant GE demonstrates Australia is alone in going backwards. Global companies like GE, Unilever and BHP have recognised carbon will constrained and so do countries from both the developed and developing world.

Around the world, the fact that renewable energy investment now competes with investment in fossil power generation investment is not an accident. It is happening because many countries have recognised that it is their economic interest to move from high pollution to low pollution. It is time, after decades of delay, that Australia starts to do the same.

John Connor

John Connor was CEO of The Climate Institute from 2007 to March 2017. Whilst qualified as a lawyer, John has spent over twenty years working in a variety of policy and advocacy roles with organisations including World Vision, Make Poverty History, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the NSW Nature Conservation Council. Since joining The Climate Institute in 2007 John has been a leading analyst and commentator on the rollercoaster that has been Australia’s domestic and international carbon policy and overseen the Institute’s additional focus on institutional investors and climate risk. John has also worked on numerous government and business advisory panels.

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