The changes to the Rudd government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), announced in early May, have shown clearly where the government’s priorities lie.
In an attempt to appease both the Liberals and major polluters, the government announced increases in the amount of direct cash handouts and free permits, along with a delay in the scheme’s start date and a lowering of the carbon price to $10 a tonne for the first year of the scheme.
“Emissions intensive trade exposed” companies will now receive 95 per cent of permits free, and a second tier will receive 66 per cent free. The misnamed “Climate Action Fund” for direct compensation to polluting industry was bolstered with another $200 million, on top of an original $2.25 billion.
The total compensation given to climate criminals through the scheme now amounts to $16.4 billion. This is on top of an average $9 billion dollars a year in government subsidies for coal and aluminium.
Disgracefully, three major “environmentalist” lobby groups—the Australian Conservation Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund and the Climate Institute—came out in support of the changes, calling for the legislation to be passed.
This is because of another change in the scheme announced by the government—a new provisional target of 25 per cent if all major economies agree to the same target and the establishment of a world market in carbon at the Copenhagen climate talks in December. But the government is on record saying this is “impossible”.
The “target” is a carrot designed to buy off climate change concern.
Instead of looking to a build a movement to challenge the government’s business-as-usual approach, these NGOs have sought to maintain their seat at the table and negotiate incremental adjustments. They have called the CPRS a “step in the right direction”. Their approach is a dead end.
From the beginning, the government has always sought to create an “emissions trading scheme” that makes carbon into a commodity tradable on the market. The EU scheme increased prices and profits—and emissions. The CPRS is designed to do exactly the same. It will allow businesses to buy their way out of action and delay the green jobs we need.
Wong has called the changes a “recession buffer”—but a real recession buffer would be direct investment in green infrastructure in energy and transportation systems and direct regulation of pollution.
This action is possible—but the government has shown us again that it’s going to take a fight to get it.
Amy Thomas

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