Australian government saves big polluters, not the climate

Posted: May 1, 2009 in environment, society
Tags: , ,

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In an unsurprising move, the Rudd Labor government has caved in to the emission-intensive, ‘trade exposed’ industry, exempting it from using renewable energy above a target of 9500 gigawatt-hours. And that is on top of promises of ‘transitional assistance’ helping them to adapt to the government’s paltry emissions trading scheme which proposes a cut of 5% (!) by 2020 with another 10% a maybe, depending on the rest of the world. The industries such as aluminium, cement and part of the mining sector nevertheless rally against the scheme, saying it will move jobs to countries like Mexico where carbon trading schemes don’t exist.

The exemption was agreed on at yesterday’s Council of Australian Government’s meeting in Hobart, which means that state’s governments are backing the federal government, which also is not not surprising given that politicians generally share their beds with business and especially the big end of town. So who will shoulder the burdens of continuing high pollution as well as the government’s targeted 20% of energy generation coming from renewable sources by 2020? The general public, smaller business and the public sector – for example through adherence to new energy efficiency standards for new home and commercial buildings. (There is nothing wrong with setting these standards – that should have been done two decades ago. What is simply outrageous is that governments make the little guys pay to allow the big polluters to continue to pollute.)

The governments’ decision comes on the back of climate scientists having taken yet another step to warn against the use of greenhouse gas emitting industrial processes. A group of seven signatories that include three lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel ob Climate Change and a former director of the World Climate Research Program wrote a letter to the heads of Rio Tinto, Alcoa and Delta Electricity to counter misinformation being spread by the coal industry. In it the scientists say that coal power plants are doomed and that the carbon capture and storage plans by the Federal Government are likely to be a waste of time and money. (The letter argues that evidence is mounting that climate change is occurring faster than predicted, that we are very close to tipping points, that carbon sequestering  is still a pie in the sky and will remain this way for some time to come, time we don’t have).

This science community’s initiative is just another attempt to change climate pollution attitudes in the corporate and government sectors; it complements the large quantity of advice already given to governments of all persuasions. But given yesterday’s government decision the the emissions intensive industry stand on a next to useless carbon reduction scheme, it seem that neither industry nor our politicians are heading the warnings. For them it’s business as usual, with a few cosmetic changes at the periphery and a short-term obsession with profits and re-electability.

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