Rudd’s method for reaching his meagre 5 per cent reduction target is the carbon pollution reduction scheme, a version of emissions trading.
The loopholes and concessions to Australia’s most polluting industries contained in Rudd’s scheme are bad enough.
Much of the “reduction” will not even be made in Australia, but will be purchased from offset schemes overseas.
Treasury modelling has estimated that 60 per cent of Australia’s “reductions” by 2050 could actually be bought in offsets from developing countries like India or Indonesia.
But any version of carbon trading is an incredibly inefficient method of reducing emissions.
The idea behind emissions trading is to put a slowly rising price on a new commodity—carbon pollution—which through the magic of the market will supposedly create incentives for industry to reduce emissions. When the very same “market magic” has brought us both the double crisis of worldwide recession and climate change itself we have every reason to be cynical.
While it will cause the price of energy to rise, there is no guarantee it will lead to an actual reduction in the use of fossil fuels. For instance if governments are not prepared to invest the billions of dollars needed to extend the availability of public transport, people will still be forced to drive cars.
Emissions trading also means cuts to emissions made by businesses in one area can be used to allow other areas to keep polluting.
This means that the industries where the need to shift to renewable energy is most urgent will be allowed to delay action. The most heavily polluting industries, like coal power stations, will therefore be allowed to continue to operate for longer.
Increased energy prices will generate opposition from ordinary working class people, who will see their living standards fall as a result.
It is estimated that the scheme will mean consumers will pay an average of approximately $270 a year more for electricity.
It is right to point out that Rudd’s scheme, with all its loopholes, will barely reduce emissions at all. But that does not mean we should fall into the trap of thinking emissions trading can be made to work.