The Rudd government is considering amendments from the Liberals that would further increase handouts to big business under its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).
The government has pilloried the Liberals in parliament for blocking action on climate change. But Rudd’s plan all along has been to negotiate with the Liberals over the CPRS. He is looking to work with the people who did nothing on climate during 12 years in power.
Rudd’s approach guarantees more concessions for the polluters and an even less effective scheme.
Under the Liberals’ amendments compensation for coal-fired power stations would triple to $10 billion over ten years.
Coal mining companies would be let off the hook by excluding methane emissions released during mining. There would also be a massive increase in free permits for so-called trade exposed industries.
Rudd’s desire to work with the Liberals underscores what his CPRS has always been about—guaranteeing the ability of polluting industries to expand in the face of demands to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Even official Treasury modeling admits that under Rudd’s scheme domestic emissions would not fall until 2035. According to research by the Australia Institute, the CPRS itself will not cause a single coal-fired power station to be replaced.
In fact the CPRS will allow a huge expansion in polluting coal power. Planning documents have revealed that the NSW government wants two new coal-fired power stations built in the state. New coal power plants have also been approved in Queensland at Wandoan and by HRL in Victoria’s Latrobe valley.
NSW Premier Nathan Rees has claimed his government wants the new power stations to be gas-fired, since this is less polluting. Apparently the option of investing in renewable technology has not even been considered.
But under questioning in parliament, Energy Minister John Robertson confirmed that the government would leave this decision to the corporations that agreed to build the power stations.
Given gas already costs more, and prices are expected to rise steeply in the coming years, this gives a virtual guarantee that two new huge coal-fired power stations, and an 18.6 per cent increase in the state’s emissions, are on the cards.
Stop new power stations
Campaigning against new coal power stations needs to be a key focus for the climate movement in 2010. When word gets out that, far from emissions cuts, a massive expansion of coal power is being planned there will be huge public opposition.
Nothing more clearly exposes the lie that the CPRS will encourage a shift to renewable energy. These plans will lock in coal as the key source for power in NSW for decades to come.
But the campaign also holds the possibility of winning real support amongst unions and local working class people in the affected communities. Because the power plants are yet to be built, campaigning to stop them will not bring opposition from workers at risk of losing jobs.
The fact that the new power stations will be built and owned by the private sector, as part of the privatisation process, will also help in winning union support. Unions have already fought a long-running campaign resisting power privatisation.
By campaigning for new power stations to be renewable, the campaign can be a fight to win jobs—since renewable energy would create more jobs than fossil fuels.
This is a perfect chance to get a much wider section of the union movement on board, including unions in power and manufacturing that have shown an interest in supporting a shift to renewable energy.
If the climate movement can force a stop to building new coal-fired power stations, it would create powerful momentum to force governments to take large-scale renewable energy seriously.
When Rudd tries to put his CPRS through the Senate in the week of November 23 there need to be howls of condemnation from the climate movement, in protests and pickets around the country.
Linking the CPRS to the plans for new power stations can help cut through the ridiculous obsession with negotiations over the detail of the scheme that dominates the media, and expose it for the scam that it is.
By James Supple