Australian government 'rollin’ coal' with carbon tax repeal

carbon tax repeal

The Australian Government has voted to abolish the country’s carbon tax. Creative Commons: Christopher Chan, 2008

In the US, a new fad among conservative anti-green petrol-heads is seeing them modify their diesel trucks to spew thick, black smoke. Dubbed “rolling coal”, it’s a political/social statement to validate what they see as their “right” to pollute, and it seems politicians in Australia have taken note.

The Abbott Government has now achieved the political equivalent of rolling coal, by making Australia the first country on earth to roll back carbon pricing legislation.

His hard-right conservative government has made “axing the tax” a relentless priority for the last four years, and has finally succeeded with the help of crossbench senators from the mining billionaire Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party.

The move was immediately dubbed a “catastrophic failure of the political system” and a “generational failure of leadership” which will make Australia an international pariah.

Commenting on the vote, CEO of The Climate Institute, John Connor said:

Today’s repeal of laws that price and limit carbon pollution is an historic act of irresponsibility and recklessness. Today we lose a credible framework of limiting pollution that was a firm foundation for a fair dinkum Australian contribution to global climate efforts. What we are left with as potential replacement policy rests on three wobbly legs – a Government fund subject to an annual budgetary arm wrestle, uncertain non-binding limits on some company emissions, and a renewable energy target under assault.

Yet hope remains that this will be a pyrrhic victory. Strong support for key clean energy and climate bodies remains, and senate negotiations may see the building blocks of an emissions trading scheme (ETS) survive.

The Labor party has confirmed it will take an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to the 2016 election, and the Palmer United Party (PUP) has proposed an amendment to the repeal bills for a zero dollar ETS, to be introduced, and scaled up as Australia’s trading partners take action.

Today’s landmark backwards step will isolate Australia politically in the lead up to the G20, Ban Ki-Moon and UNFCCC meetings later this year. Moreover it will compromise its ability to modernise and clean up its dirty economy.

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said:

The European Union regrets the repeal of Australia’s carbon pricing mechanism just as new carbon pricing initiatives are emerging all around the world. The EU is convinced that pricing carbon is not only the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, but also the tool to make the economic paradigm shift the world needs.

Labor opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of “sleepwalking the country into an environmental and economic disaster”, and it is clear from the attacks on renewable energy and support for coal that his government does not understand that the fossil industry is the new subprime danger.

The government may have succeeded in killing the carbon tax, but it was undeniably doing its job to cut emissions. Put simply,pollution is declining in a growing economy, and doing so without impacting household budgets considering the significant compensation handed out to cover carbon pricing-associated rises.

The Abbott government also does not speak for all Australians,the majority of which support climate action and want it now because they trust the science. Australians are already experiencing increases in extreme weather events, suffering through angry summers, seeing bushfires strike with increasing frequency and intensity, and understand that the driest continent on earth next to Antarctica is drying out further thanks to our emissions.

Sydney Morning Herald economics editor Ross Gittins said:

[T]he physical effects of climate change include a rise in the sea level, acidification of the ocean, change in rainfall patterns and an increase in the frequency of natural disasters, including droughts. Extreme weather may lead to more bushfires, while heavy rainfall and cyclones may lead to flooding. Do you think all that generates no costs to business, no disruption to the economy?

There is no way to avoid paying for carbon pollution. Either polluters pay for their emissions, taxpayers pay for polluter emissions, or everybody suffers the severe costs of climate change.

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