Abbott needs minority Senate to save himself from himself | RenewEconomy

Abbott needs minority Senate to save himself from himself

The Opposition leader’s pledge to repeal the carbon price is looking more and more absurd, particularly after this week’s Aus-China Climate Change Forum.


For the past year or more, ever since Tony Abbott launched his scare campaign over the carbon price, the media team in Climate Change minister Greg Combet’s office have been amusing themselves putting out a weekly bulletin entitled Abbott’s Absurdities. Now, it seems that mainstream business has finally cottoned on.

The “blood oath” pledge by Abbott and the Coalition to repeal the carbon tax, and a bunch of other clean energy and climate initiatives, is looking increasingly like the absurd act of economic vandalism that has and is being portrayed by Combet’s office.

Even the staunchly conservative Australian Industry Group has begun lobbying the Coalition to keep the carbon price – a position shared by just about everyone in industry, and if the pointlessness of the repeal policy was not obvious beforehand, then it should have been after this week’s Australia China Climate Change Forum at UNSW.

The Coalition is basing its policy position on the supposed “fact” that no one else is pursuing carbon pricing. Greg Hunt said insisted that China would never ever have one.

That’s not a view shared by the powerful vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Xie Zhenhua, who told the forum, and the media afterwards, that China expected to have a national emissions trading scheme from 2015 (around the time Abbott would be killing off Australia’s scheme).

China is implementing a series of pilot emissions trading schemes in various provinces and cities this year to test what works for the Chinese economy. It will start off with a small carbon price, but Xie gave a strong indication that any future price would not be small.

He noted, for instance, that the EU carbon price was now so low it was not providing a strong enough signal for investment. Industrialised countries, he noted, needed to lift their level of ambition.

China, however, is also under pressure to accelarate its own action, mostly from within its own population, who have grown concerned about recent extreme pollution events and what Xie described as “crazy” weather.

Xie rattled through a series of “Direct Action” initiatives taken by the government in recent years – investing heavily in wind and solar, as well as hydro and nuclear, setting ambitious non-fossil fuel targets, reducing the energy intensity of its economy by 45 per cent out to 2020, and putting limits on the amount of coal used.

Economists at HSBC, in their analysis of Peak Planet that we reported on yesterday, said what China achieves remains crucial for the world’s attempts to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

It noted that China’s CO2 emissions are already 1.5 times US levels, even though its per capita emissions are a fraction of those of its main economic rival.

HSBC says US emissions per capita peaked in 1973 at 24t CO2per person. China’s are currentlya round 7t CO. According to Chinese government forecasts, China is expected to reach the US levels of income per capita of 1973 in 2030. If it had the same carbon per capita levels as the US had in 1973, then it would deliver 33.5GtCO2 for China in 2030 – higher than world CO2 levels today.

“We believe that China will peak much earlier than this,” HSBC economists noted.  And they said  China has a good chance of exceeding its stated target for improving carbon intensity by 2020. Indeed, we estimate that China could deliver a 53 per cent reduction in carbon per unit of GDP from 2005-2020 compared with its 40-45 per cent policy target.

RenewEconomy asked Xie when he thought that emissions would peak in China. He didn’t want to give a date, and said it was a careful balance between economic growth and environmental issues. But he concluded with this interesting sentence. “Identifying a peak year is important  …. and the earlier the peak is achieved, the more room is preserved for our offspring to develop.”

Meanwhile, the centre-piece of Abbott’s climate policy, apart from dissolving anything that has been implemented in the last few years, is his Green Army proposal to plant trees and build board-walks. Even that great socialist-agrarian Mao Zedong would be embarrassed by such nonsense. The world, including China, has moved on.

Combet delighted in pointing this out: “Repealing the carbon price would trash our international reputation and would be economically reckless – it would do great harm in the longer term,” he said. “To deny all of (China’s initiatives) and pretend Australia lives in a vacuum, and to say that we can repeal it, is complete fantasy.”

Combet said Labor would not “roll over” and wave through a repeal as the Coalition hoped it would.  “My party has no intention of repudiating a policy we held for 20 years,” he said. “We will not back down.” That, however, depends on Labor, The Greens and like minded independents having the numbers to do that.

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  1. Mark Plackett 8 years ago

    Giles sadly we await latest poll results for the Greens to stop being as relentlessly negative as the Opposition about the Government.

    The big risk here is that there is a risk of the “No Confidence” motion getting up and we are forced to an early federal poll.

    I would like to see an analysis by Anthony Green of the likely senate outcome given the polls. Internationally an early Coalition Government with a Coalition dominated Senate would be I think be viewed very badly. We risk ostracism on the following issues:

    Turning the boats back Safely? : We have numerous obligations and treaties which would be breached, International Law of The Sea and responding to Mayday and S.O.S. The Navy would be required to implement a very controversial and ethically indefensible policy.

    Behavioural Protocols: Is this code for awaken racism and xenophobia in the community. This may well conflict with racial vilification laws in practice.

    Carbon Trading and Carbon Tax?: Risk of Australian farmers revolt as EU taxes sanctions could be applied. Please note the EU levies fines at its own members who don’t play the game as well as internationally against Microsoft.

    Overseas Aid reduction to 0.5% GDP: We only had to hear Bob Geldof’s criticism the other night.

    In conclusion well stated I only hope that the press aware of this risk to Australia’s perception internationally as an inclusive progressive state and potential to have years of work nullified by ill advised politics.

  2. Richard McLachlan 8 years ago

    Remember the “Lie” Julia told about no carbon tax, before she had to form a minority government and accept the Greens demands for one?

    Well vote her out, and you one of two things will happen.

    Either Abbot will be made into a liar, and not repeal it because doing so would be too stupid. He will make some excuse… but you will have swapped one “liar” for another.

    Or he will repeal it, showing what a truly stupid power hungry douchebag he is, prepared to do anything just for politics and power.

    I believe he will win. I can’t see Juia weathering the bombardment of bad press, though the vast majority of it is unwarranted. OK, so there is a level of disagreement and disunity in the labor party.

    But Abbott has less support in his own party than Julia. That his party is “loyal” and won’t cross the floor even to vote for things they believe in such as gay marriage… what… this is to be applauded?


  3. concerned 8 years ago

    Re the AIG. This mirrors what I have been told by ,many of my clients.

    As for the Senate,the numbers will remain the same until July 2014,unless there is a double disolution.

  4. James Wight 8 years ago

    AIG’s proposal would not be an improvement on either major party’s climate policy.

    Under current policies Australia’s emissions are beginning to decrease, and the Direct Action Plan (despite many faults) would not preclude further action. In contrast, rushing to an ETS would actively limit emissions reductions if it means locking in the weak 5%-by-2020 emissions target.

    Instead of trying to bring forward this potential disaster, true supporters of climate action must advocate deep emissions targets without international offsets.

  5. John D 8 years ago

    If we are serious about moving to 100% renewable energyg we to implement something like the BZE stationary energy plan. (See:

    A key message of this plan is that any credible plan will only work if the right technologies are installed in the right places. The carbon price won’t give us a working system because it encourages investment in the most profitable technologies in the most profitable locations.

    If we are serious about achieving 100% renewable power we need something more direct than a carbon tax. Something that looks like a Snowy Mountain scheme.

    It is a shame that Tony has given “direct action” such a bad name.

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