On 17 July, Australia’s carbon tax was repealed.
I was originally going to write about all the political theatre and drama associated with the repeal, but in the final analysis it didn’t really matter that much. At the end of the day, the carbon tax is dead. Tony Abbott’s Liberal government finally succeeded in killing it, with the roundabout support of coal mining billionaire Clive Palmer and near-unanimous applause from business lobbyists.
For four years, the carbon tax has taken centre stage in the Australian climate policy debate. The Liberals claimed it would destroy the economy. Labor touted it as an adequate solution to human-caused global warming and used it to justify cutting other climate policies. The Greens, having piled compromise upon compromise to get it legislated, tried to convince us to put all our efforts into protecting it as a first step to decarbonizing our economy. Despite it being a blatantly insufficient policy full of holes and time-bombs (particularly in the emissions trading phase it would have entered next year), voices calling for more meaningful climate action were marginalized.
All that time and effort has now disappeared down the drain. The Greens’ vaunted “first step” is now a footnote in Australian history. Abbott has turned the climate policy clock back to 2006 (and may soon turn it back further, if he decides to scrap the Renewable Energy Target too). That’s eight years wasted.
Although Australia currently has one of the most anti-climate governments, the story is pretty similar around the world: lots of talk, not much action.
While we’ve been squabbling over the carbon tax, Australia has been expanding its largest contribution to climate change: fossil fuel exports. Just a fortnight ago, the Abbott government approved Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, which will produce four times the emissions of New Zealand. (You can sign a petition against the mine here.)
The newspapers make much of the fact that Palmer, and his ally Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts, have chosen to distance themselves from Abbott’s agenda of total climate deregulation by supporting the continuation of selected existing climate institutions. But to me, when a coal mining billionaire and a motoring enthusiast are being most proactive in saving Australia’s existing climate policies, it’s an indication of just how inadequate those policies really are. Continue reading