At last…a plan was hatched

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Feature Story - 10 July, 2011
After years of debate and argy-bargy, the federal government has finally announced a climate change package. Greenpeace Australia was in the Parliament House lockdown in Canberra yesterday poring over the details and here’s our take on what was announced.

In summary: This is a good first step to work towards a clean energy future. The fact that we’ve even got to this point is a huge achievement. The announced package, however, doesn’t go nearly far enough to respond sufficiently to climate change. But now we’ve got the framework in place, we can work towards even stronger action on climate change.

The ‘Clean Energy Future’ plan is no small feat. We would like to say a huge congratulations and thank you to the thousands of Australians who joined us in putting their beliefs into action over the last few years. Yesterday’s announcement is testament to the willpower and vision of our community who demanded action on climate change. There are many positive aspects to the announcement, which every one of you played a vital role in bringing about. There are also many flaws – and this reflects the power and influence of Australia’s polluting industries.

Trish Harrup, Climate & Energy Team Leader, talks about the good and the bad of the finally announced carbon tax.

More details about what was announced?

From 1 July 2012 the top 500 polluting companies will be taxed $23 tonne per carbon pollution. It will go up $1/tonne each year until 2015 when we will transition to an emissions trading scheme.

The positives

Flexibility and independence

  • The new announcement means there will be the flexibility to become more ambitious and make informed decisions outside of the political fight.
  • 3 independent bodies will be created to manage and advise the process. Funding for clean energy will be removed from control of the Department of Resources. The bodies include:
  1. Climate Change Authority – responsible for advising parliament, based on expert advice and what level of ambition Australia should commit to.
  2. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation – responsible for rolling out the clean energy projects.
  3. Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) – responsible for research and development and commercialisation of clean energy technologies.  This will roll together $3.2 billion in existing funding for renewables to allow a consistent approach to research and development and deployment of emerging technologies.

Unlocking clean energy

  • The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will have $10 billion over 5 years (raised from the tax revenue) to spend on the deployment of clean energy projects. Finally some decent money to unlock clean energy development.
  • Carbon, capture and storage (CCS or “clean coal”) won’t be included in the clean technologies – great to see the clean coal myths have been realised as just that – myths.

Winding back support for polluters

  • Companies have a 50% cap on the credits they can acquire overseas –there was no cap with the old CPRS framework.
  • The productivity Commission will review the compensation to the big polluters, creating the potential to wind back the generous handouts after five years
  • The subsidy given to the big miners for their diesel petrol use has been cut by $670 million. This marks the beginning of the winding back of subsidies given to the big polluters.

Consumer compensation

  • It is not just the big polluters who will receive government assistance. 9 out of 10 households will compensated as Australia transitions to a low carbon economy.

The let-downs

  • A price of $23/will not drive all the change needed across our economy, other climate policy measures must be introduced by the parliament,
  • There is too much compensation for the polluting industries. High emissions intensive companies, like Bluescope, will receive 94.5% of their carbon tax compensated. On a positive note, there is only a 5 year guarantee for compensation so there’s definitely wriggle room for cutting that down.
  • There was no Emissions Performance Standard included in the package – it is essential that the parliament set pollution standards for new power stations to rule out new dirty coal power .

While there are many drawbacks with the announced policy, unlike the previously proposed CPRS scheme, it has more flexibility in place so we can continue campaigning for an even stronger climate change commitment. For now we should breathe a sigh of relief that Australia has finally taken the fundamental first step in our journey towards a clean energy future.