Monday, August 11, 2014
Australia repleals the carbon tax. Hmm, what do you think a backwards step on good enviromnetal stewardship or the elimination of a tax set will do to AL Gore's riches? Aivars Lode
By MICHELLE INNISJULY 17, 2014
SYDNEY, Australia — Opposition politicians and environmentalists in Australia reacted with dismay Thursday to the country’s repeal of laws requiring large companies to pay for carbon emissions, saying that it made Australia the first country to reverse progress on fighting climate change.
The Senate voted 39 to 32 on Thursday to repeal the so-called carbon tax after Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s conservative government secured the support of a number of independent senators. The House of Representatives had voted earlier in the week to repeal the unpopular measure, which has been a highly contentious issue in Australian politics for seven years.
The tax was devised to penalize hundreds of Australia’s biggest producers of carbon emissions, setting a price of 23 Australian dollars, or $21.50, per metric ton of carbon dioxide when it was put into effect in 2012 under then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Labor Party, which is now in the opposition. The price rose to 25 Australian dollars this month.
Mr. Abbott, of the conservative Liberal Party, who took office in September, made repealing the tax a central pledge of his election campaign, arguing that ending it would reduce electricity prices and enhance economic growth. But he struggled twice to get the measure through the Senate before the vote Thursday. The government now plans to introduce a range of measures that it says will encourage business to reduce pollution, rather than penalizing polluters.
After the vote Thursday, Mr. Abbott characterized the tax as a “useless, destructive tax, which damaged jobs, which hurt families’ cost of living and which didn’t actually help the environment.” He called it a “9 percent impost on power prices, a $9 billion handbrake on our economy,” and said the repeal would save the average household 550 dollars a year.
Australia is among the world’s biggest producers of carbon emissions on a per capita basis. The government is committed to reducing emissions to 5 percent below levels recorded in 2000 by 2020.
Politicians from Labor and the smaller Greens party said the repeal would undermine Australia’s efforts to address climate change. The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, described Mr. Abbott as an “environmental vandal.”
“Today, Tony Abbott has made Australia the first country in the world to reverse action on climate change,” Mr. Shorten said. Christine Milne, a senator from Tasmania and leader of the Greens party, said, “History will judge Tony Abbott harshly for his denial of global warming and his undermining of Australia’s effort to address it.”
John Connor, chief executive of the Climate Institute, a Sydney-based advocacy group, said that some governments had pulled back from carbon reduction targets, including Japan after the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011, but that “no one else in the world has repealed a working, functioning carbon pricing mechanism.”
“We are taking a monumentally reckless backward leap even as other countries are stepping up to climate action,” Mr. Connor said in an interview. He said that Australia is the highest per capita emitter of carbon in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the group of developed countries, and that it ranks in the top 20 globally, emitting around 25 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person every year. “Australia’s economy is much more carbon-intensive than the U.S. economy,” Mr. Connor said.
Mr. Abbott has said that the repeal will lead to lower energy costs for consumers. But Mr. Connor said that while Australian electricity prices have indeed risen, that was due in part to power companies investing in infrastructure. “The government effectively used the carbon tax as the scapegoat for higher energy costs,” he said.
But representatives of major industries, including agriculture and mining, said that the costs passed along to other businesses because of the emissions penalty were high. While the agriculture sector was exempt from directly paying the tax, its costs “hit Australian farmers every time they paid for essential electricity, fertilizer, chemicals and fuel supplies,” Brent Finlay, president of the National Farmers’ Federation, said in a statement.
Brendan Pearson, head of the Minerals Council of Australia, said in a statement that the removal of “the world’s biggest carbon tax is an important step towards regaining the competitive edge that Australia lost over the last decade.” The council estimated that the tax cost the mining industry 1.2 billion dollars per year.
A representative of independent grocers also applauded the repeal, saying that the cost of electricity and refrigerant gases had skyrocketed since the carbon tax was introduced. “A small, corner store operator will save about 17,000 Australian dollars a year,” said Jos de Bruin of Master Grocers Australia, which represents about 2,400 independent supermarkets.