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Activists & pro-gas Oz Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) climate inaction plan

by : Dr Gideon Polya
Friday March 4, 2011 - 23:52

Pro-peace, pro-environment, pro-human rights Australians are appalled by the betrayal of pro-peace, pro-environment, pro-human rights Australians and Labor voters by the successive pro-war, pro-coal, pro-gas, human rights-abusing Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments.

Now pro-environment Australians are witnessing Australian climate activism organizations going "soft" by lending support to the pro-gas Gillard Labor Australian Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan that can be seen as a plan for continued climate change inaction by the World’s leading per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter.

Australia is a word leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. Thus “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included) (see “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/clima... ). However as briefly outlined below, climate criminal Australia is hell bent on burning and exporting fossil fuels until the World makes it stop.

The scientific world has appreciated the problem of man-made climate change for over 20 years. Indeed that was why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. However global GHG pollution has remorselessly increased, unperturbed by four successive IPCC Assessment Reports. International concerns were formalized in 1997 with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol but Australia refused to sign. After a dozen years of Australian inaction on climate change under the conservative Howard Liberal-National Party Coalition Government, in 2007 the Rudd Labor Government was elected with a big majority , in part on the promise to “tackle climate change” which PM Kevin Rudd famously described as “the greatest moral challenge of our time”.

However it was not to be. Rudd signed up to Kyoto but then delayed any action for about a year by getting Professor Ross Garnaut, an economist, to investigate man-made climate change. Rudd acted upon the highly flawed Garnaut Report by proposing a Carbon Trading Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)that was called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). Unfortunately Labor promised only a derisory 5% off 2000 level of Domestic GHG pollution by 2020 and ignored Australia’s huge GHG Exports in the form of huge liquid natural gas (LNG) exports and world-leading coal exports. Indeed Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme actually meant an increase of Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2020 to 131% of the 2000 value (see: https://sites.google.com/site/yarra... ).

The CPRS was opposed by the Greens for not being tough enough and by the significantly climate sceptic Coalition Opposition for being too tough. A compromise deal between Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull and PM Rudd completely and permanently excluded agriculture i.e. excluded over 51% of the GHG problem forever. However Malcolm Turnbull was subsequently replaced as leader by formerly and still functionally climate sceptic ultraconservative Tony Abbott. In 2010 Rudd decided to put climate change action on hold for several more years and his popularity greatly declined because of this and because of a huge Mining Superprofits Tax that was opposed by the Mining Industry in a successful $22 million media campaign. This also established how much it costs to remove a PM in Murdochracy and Lobbyocracy Australia because in mid-2010 Rudd was removed in a 24 hour Coup and replaced by PM by Julia Gillard.

One of PM Gillard’s first acts was to approve the export of dried brown coal from the state of Victoria. This decision was predicted to increase Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution to about 149% of that in 2000 (see: https://sites.google.com/site/yarra... ).

In the federal election some months later, PM Gillard promised that there would be no Carbon Tax under a Gillard Labor Government. The election almost led to a hung Parliament but Gillard Labor survived with the help of 1 Green MP, a quasi-Green Independent MP and 3 conservative Independent MPs.

In February 2011 PM Gillard announced a disastrous Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan from 2012 onwards that would introduce a probably low Carbon Price of circa $20/tonne carbon that would preclude renewables and merely enable a futile coal to gas transition. This would be followed in 2015 by an ETS that would almost certainly be disastrously ineffective. And the whole scheme ignored Agriculture which is responsible for over 50% of GHG pollution.

The Greens (supporters of the Gillard Labor Minority Government) and several climate activist groups (specifically the Australian WWF and Environment Victoria) have supported the Carbon Tax notion of the CTETSIA Plan but science-informed climate activists were dismayed by a scheme that would clearly entrench Australian climate change inaction and promote a disastrous and utterly counterproductive coal burning to gas burning transition. .

A key group of science-informed climate activists is Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) that in mid-2010 released an important and much-acclaimed plan for 100% renewable energy for Australia by 2020 (Zero Carbon Australia, ZCA 20202; see “Zero Carbon Australia stationary energy plan”: http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/... ). The BZE ZCA2020 Plan involved 40% wind energy, 60% concentrated solar thermal (CST) with molten salts energy storage for 24/7 baseload power, biomass and hydroelectric backup (for days of no wind and low sunshine) and a HV DC and HC AC national power grid. The BZE scheme was costed at $370 billion over 10 years, with roughly half spent on CST, one quarter on wind and one quarter on the national electricity grid.

It is notable that a previously published scheme by top Australian electrical engineer Professor Peter Seligman involved wind, solar thermal, other energy sources, Hydrological Energy Storage (in dams on the Nullabor Plain), an HV AC and HV DC grid and a cost over 20 years of $253 billion (see Peter Seligman, “Australian sustainable energy – by the numbers”: http://energy.unimelb.edu.au/ozsebtn/ ).

Another variant would be 80% Wind with Hydrological Energy Storage and other energy for 24/7 operation, noting that wind power installation is about 3-fold cheaper than solar thermal power installation; see Infigen: http://infigenenergy.com/media/4182... ). Thus ignoring economies of scale for a 2- to10-fold size increase, here are 2 similar estimates for wind power for 80% of Australia’s projected 325,000 GWh of electrical energy by 2020 (see ABARE: http://www.abare.gov.au/publication... ): (1) 90,000 MW capacity, 260,000 GWH/year, $200 billion/10 years (10-fold scale-up from GL Garrad Hassan: https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.... ) and (2) 96,000 MW, 260,000 GWh/year, $144 billion (2-fold scale-up of BZE’s Wind Power proposal: http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/... ).

To put this modest cost for a huge transition to renewable energy in context, Australia spends $20 billion each year on gambling, $40 billion each year on insurance and $12 billion per year on legislated subsidies for fossil fuel burning.

In response to the pro-coal, pro-gas Gillard Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan, Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has released an important analysis of carbon pricing entitled “Carbon pricing – will it benefit renewable energy”: http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/151548... . While PM Gillard has broken her election promise not to have a Carbon Tax and has so far refused to state what the initial price will be, there is much speculation that it will be less than the $20 per tonne carbon suggested by the Greens rather than a high level of $200/tonne C required for initial concentrated solar thermal (CST) with molten salts energy storage. Astonishingly, BZE opts for a very low Carbon Tax that is likely to be pro-gas Gillard Labor Government policy.

Key quotes from the BZE Carbon Pricing Report: “There have been many calls from those in the climate change debate for “a rising price on carbon which is high enough to stimulate renewable energy”. This is a flawed strategy . Due to the nature of technology and the electricity market, we would require in excess of $70.tonne even for wind power, the lowest cost renewable, to compete in the electricity market without requiring Renewable Energy Certificates from the LRET, For baseload technologies such as concentrating solar thermal (CST), the game changer we need to replace coal and gas, you would need in excess of $200 /tonne for initial plants… A low carbon price of $10-20/tonne is somewhat useful, as it will still create a disincentive to build new coal-fired power stations, and will ensure that coal is more likely to be displaced by renewable than gas. However, a carbon price which is greater than $25/tonne will ensure a mass rollout of gas-fired power stations, while renewables are left out in the cold... BZE’s recommendation on a carbon price is that calling for a high price will inevitably lead to a large switch to gas, with minimal benefits to renewable energy. The focus should be on making the case for a carbon-pricing plus framework that elevates “direct incentives” such as Feed-in-Tariffs in the debate. The carbon price alone is only a complementary measure. The carbon price “debate” has already been won, the next step is to call for policies that work, as opposed to policies that delay.”

Extraordinarily, BZE appears to be supporting in principle the outrageous pro-gas Gillard Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan. Labor’s CTETSIA Plan will scupper viable and crucial plans for 100% renewable energy for Australia by 2020 (BZE ZCA2020: http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/... ) and will pointlessly replace coal burning with gas burning which is effectively as dirty as coal GHG-wise at current industrial methane leakage (see: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?ar... ). Labor’s ETS approach is empirically unsuccessful, dangerously counterproductive and inherently fraudulent (Google 300.org for a compendium of over 40 expert science-informed opinions on this matter: https://sites.google.com/site/300or... ); and Labor’s ignoring of Agricultural GHG ignores what is over 50% of the GHG problem (see: http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf... ).

Unfortunately BZE also ignores the huge Carbon Taxes we already have, specifically the $9-$12 billion pa Carbon Tax on taxpayers to promote fossil fuel burning (see Dr Chris Riedy: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/conte... and ACF: http://www.acfonline.org.au/article... ; $53-$71 per tonne carbon "negative Carbon Tax") and the huge cost of the estimated 10,000 Australian deaths pa from pollutants from carbon burning - the minimum Carbon Price to cover carbon burning-derived deaths and carbon burning subsidies is $554-$572 per tonne of carbon as compared to the best political offer yet of $20 per tonne of carbon (see “Labor Government of world-leading per capita GHG polluter Australia commits to climate change inaction”: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?ar... ).

Major well-funded climate activist groups including the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Australian World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Climate Institute went “soft” by supporting Rudd Labor’s appalling ETS. Environment Victoria went “soft” by proposing substantial replacement of the coal-burning Hazelwood power station with gas burning. In saying that a “price of $10-20/tonne” is “somewhat useful” and more of a disincentive for gas-fired power than ”greater than $25/tonne” is BZE saying that “more is less”? Has BZE gone “soft” like the ACF, WWF, Climate Institute, Environment Victoria and other climate activists?

In short, Australian climate activists are skating on thin ice in lending support to the pro-gas Gillard Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan that can be seen as a plan for climate change inaction (see “Labor Government of world-leading per capita GHG polluter Australia commits to climate change inaction”: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?ar... ). We must resolutely oppose the worsening coal to gas transition and oppose all new coal- and gas-fired power plants (see “Resource to stop gas-fired power plants, fossil fuel burning, GHG pollution & man-made climate change”: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?ar... ), demand 100% renewable energy by 2020 (see: https://sites.google.com/site/100re... ) and an urgent return of atmospheric CO2 to a safe and sustainable 300 ppm from the current damaging and dangerous 392 ppm (see 300.org: https://sites.google.com/site/300or... ).



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