Never trust politicians. The Rudd government’s carbon emission trading scheme is just another example. There are many argument’s that can be made against such schemes in general, like that they have never worked overseas (in Europe for example), they have never reduced carbon emissions, they benefitted the big polluters, despite their ineffectiveness they led to price rises across the board for energy (meaning unadulterated, tax payer and consumer funded profit for the energy sector), etc.. But for the time being we can leave these points aside and focus on another one that demonstrates the Rudd government’s deceitful strategies: the emission reduction’s cap of 5-15% by 2020 based on our emissions in 2000.
Again, apart from the woefulness of such target in the face of scientific evidence on global warming, the scheme is designed to pull the wool over our eyes. We can turn off our lights or appliances on standby, we can change our light globes, we can give money to carbon offset projects (which generally are a rip-off anyway), we can walk and use our bikes instead petrol driven vehicles, find appliances with high energy ratings, turn off our air conditioners, we can even use the free ceiling insulation the government is promising us – it’s all of little avail. The problem is that the cap is not only a ceiling but also a floor; it defines both the upper and the lower limit at the same time. That means that all the energy we save will be made up again by extra emissions from industrial polluters. We reduce, they increase – and they’ll even charge us more money despite their extra emissions, claiming costs incurred by the emission trading scheme.
The government scheme is a zero sum game, and it is designed to support industry and delude the public. And so far the government is doing a good job. The main industrial polluters like steel, aluminium, mining, liquid gas and cement industries, are being promised free carbon credits (the same thing happened in Europe, which was one reason why the scheme there didn’t work), and the average person in the street so far has been successfully kept in the dark. Here is an example for how the government operates: at the beginning of this week, the minister for climate change, Penny Wong was not able to explain to viewers of the ABC‘s current affairs program (the) 7.30 Report how her own Carbon Emission Trading Scheme actually worked … well, not being able or not wanting – the effect of course is the same: people were not made wiser.
But the government doesn’t just keep us in the dark on what it sells us as its key environmental policy, it also spruiks the idea that “households and individuals should be able to contribute to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions“. As part of its 42 billion dollar ‘stimulus package’ it puts at our disposal, as already mentioned, free ceiling insulation and, in addition, subsidies for hot water systems (our plumber just this week already offered us his unsolicited help). Rudd tells us that this “energy-efficient homes initiative” could “result in reductions of greenhouse emissions by 49.9 million tonnes by 2020, or the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road”. Given that he knows what effect the cap will have, he consciously lies. And, by the way, the main beneficiaries from his promises will be the manufacturers of these products who, as polluters, are also part of the problem the governemnt largesse is pretending to address.
But it’s not just the prime minister who deceives us; Penny Wong does the same. She wrote in a newspaper article at the beginning of this week that the critique of the cap-and-trade-abatement scheme is based on a misunderstanding. “Some argue that household action simply frees up carbon pollution permits for others to use,” she said. “In fact, individual and community action to be more energy efficient not only saves them money, it will contribute directly to Australia meeting our emissions reductions targets. Strong household action also helps make it easier for governments to set even more ambitious targets in the future.” This is typical politician’s weasel speak. Of course, arithmetically speaking, our actions can save money and contribute to reduction targets; but her statement does not address the actual issue: that the reduction in emissions we might create will be eliminated by the increase of emissions generated by polluting industries (like the government’s solar rebate scheme). (And as for “ambitious targets”: the current ones set by the government do not engender much trust in those yet unspecified future trajectories.)
What effects do all these obfuscating lies have on the electorate’s information level? The Australia Institute recently conducted a poll to find out what people think about the effects on greenhouse gas emissions “if every household in Australia reduced their electricity use in the future”. About 8 per cent weren’t sure, but 78 per cent said our total emissions would go down. Only 13 per cent got the right answer, that total emissions would stay the same. That is a seriously misinformed electorate, which means, sadly, that the government’s misleading propaganda is working. Let’s challenge them!
The grass-roots community advocacy organisation GetUp! – Action for Australia is currently running a campaign against the Rudd government’s deceitful policy actions. Click here to go to their website if you want to support their mass mailing efforts to call directly on Kevin Rudd to come clean and change his planned emission reduction policy.
[Further links: check the Australia Institute’s website for a range of papers on this issue]