Just weeks before its likely abolition in the federal Senate, Australia’s carbon price – which turned two today and rose to $25.40 from $24.15 – is being lauded for its success thus far in driving the nation’s pollution down, cleaning up its energy mix, and strengthening its economy.
A new report from the Climate Institute shows that, in the two years since carbon pricing was introduced, Australia’s total emissions from electricity consumption in the NEM are down by 5.3 million tonnes in the 12 months to May 2014 – a drop of 17.2 million tonnes or 10.3 per cent.
And it says it would be a travesty, “in the face of these facts,” if Australia was to become the first nation in the world to dismantle a working carbon pricing scheme, just as its key trading partners, like the US and China, moved to introduce similar or more ambitious levels of action.
“As Australia’s carbon laws turn two, the government’s own data and reports highlight they are working to reduce pollution in a growing economy,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.
“The carbon laws that price and limit pollution have worked with the Renewable Energy Target and economic changes to achieve these results. As the fixed price moves into an emissions trading scheme from next year, default emission limits would see emissions fall by 15 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.”
“The new Senate should not rush into repeal of these laws that are working – reducing pollution in a growing economy,” Connor said.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott is showing no sign of backing away from the repeal, telling ABC radio this morning that the public were “entitled to expect” the carbon tax to go in the next week or so.
“Certainly the last thing we want is the world’s biggest carbon tax just going up and up and up and obviously it did go up today, pending repeal in a fortnight’s time,” Abbott said.
“I think we should be the affordable energy capital of the world, not the unaffordable capital of the world, and that’s why the carbon tax must go and that’s why we’re reviewing the renewable energy target.”
The TCI report, however, disagrees with Abbott on this point, too, noting the success of the Renewable Energy Target in cleaning up Australia’s energy mix.
“Electricity from renewables like wind and solar has grown by around 37 per cent and natural gas by 1.3 per cent since June 2012,” says the report. While brown coal use has fallen by 14 per cent and black coal by 7 per cent.
“Australia now has a cleaner electricity generation sector with carbon pollution per megawatt-hour down 5.7 per cent, since carbon pricing was introduced.”
And the report notes that, with these schemes in place, Australia’s economy continues to grow: “Contrary the scare campaigns, the carbon laws have not clobbered the economy. In fact growth was higher than expected (1.1 per cent) in the March quarter, with an annual growth rate of 3.5 per cent,” it says.
“Unemployment remains below 6 per cent and jobs in the renewable energy sector continue to grow. The Consumer Price Index impact has been less than expected. The latest figures show a 2.9 per cent rise in the year to March 2014, a rate that is within the Reserve Bank of Australia’s target range.”
“The carbon price has not resulted in the catastrophic impacts predicted by opponents,” said Connor. “The understanding that the price impacts have not been as detrimental as some predicted have helped push public opinion in greater support of the laws, even as the Government seeks to repeal them.”
Meanwhile, the government that claims to have been elected on a mandate to axe the carbon tax rolls up its sleeves to get the job done, evidence has surfaced suggesting that Australia’s carbon laws are more popular than ever, gaining majority support from voters for the first time ever.
Recent polling commissioned by the Climate Institute found that more Australians support than oppose the carbon laws, with over a third (34 per cent) now in favour of the laws, up 6 points from 2012, while at the same time opposition has dropped off by 22 points to 30 per cent.
The polling also revealed that a majority of Australians also want the government to take climate change more seriously, with 57 per cent of this view.
This mirrors the results of recent polling in the US, which found that registered American voters were 2.5 times more likely to vote for a congressional or presidential candidate who supported action to reduce global warming; and 3 times more likely to vote against a candidate who opposed climate action.
The survey results, published this week in a report by America’s Centre for Climate Change Communication, also found many Americans were prepared to act politically over the issue, with 26 per cent of respondents willing to join, or already participating in, a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming.
Thirty-seven per cent were found willing to sign a pledge to vote only for political candidates that shared their climate views; and 13 per cent were willing to personally engage in non-violent civil disobedience against corporate or government activities that make global warming worse.
The study also highlighted deep divisions on thinking about climate change within the Republican Party, despite conservative Republicans often expressing climate denying views that were distinctly different than the rest of the American public.
For example, Republican Lenar Whitney, a GOP Congressional candidate from Lousiana, used her first campaign video last Wednesday to air a 5-minute long tirade against climate science and global warming, stating that the earth was getting colder, that there was a record amount of Arctic sea ice, and that climate scientists were proven to actively falsify their data.
In a solemn black and white video, Whitney references George Orwell as she describes global warming as “perhaps the greatest deception in the history of mankind.”
“Quite inconveniently for Al Gore and the rest of the politicians that continue to advance this delusion, any 10-year-old can invalidate their thesis with one of the simplest scientific devices known to man — a thermometer. The earth has done nothing but get colder each year,” she says.