YOUR SAY: Plea for Bilateral Action on Climate Change by Parliament

Posted on October 5, 2010 by


BY KEITH BOXER.

I watched Q&A on ABC television on Monday evening the 27th of September and was extremely disappointed by the confrontational attitude of Federal Member for Indi Sophie Mirabella to the discussions on climate change and the government’s proposed committee to review a carbon price in relation to climate change abatement.

Her attitude demonstrated that she had no personal understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change and was simply mirroring Tony Abbott’s hard line on opposing Government proposals at every turn, regardless of the merits of individual activities.

I have written to various members of the Coalition, including Sophie Mirabella, on a number of occasions and have stressed that I believe the Coalition’s Direct Action Policy is a most effective method for reducing greenhouse emissions in a timely manner. Provided it is aggressively pursued with coal fired power stations being decommissioned rapidly and being replaced by a distributed network of renewable energy power generation facilities.

In my letters I also stressed that I believe that a carbon price is inevitable and an essential part of any wide ranging program to dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

It seems to me that there are a number of reasons why a carbon price is inevitable;

  1. Many countries already have a carbon pricing scheme, e.g. Europe and NZ;
  2. The US is seriously considering a carbon price and some North American states such as British Columbia in Canada and California in the USA already have carbon pricing schemes in place, independently to their respective Federal Governments;
  3. Industry is starting to publically recognise that a carbon price is coming and now requires certainty on any carbon pricing program so that forward planning can be undertaken for future vital infrastructure projects;
  4. Airlines, such as Qantas, and green fleet, who offset vehicle emissions, already have public carbon abatement schemes running so there is an expectation in the public arena and in wider industry that a carbon pricing scheme is becoming a reality;
  5. China is taking drastic action to reduce emissions to a better than Copenhagen position to the extent that the government is closing down factories that do not comply with the GDP to Carbon emissions plan that the Chinese government has adopted;

Sadly, Sophie Mirabella’s attack on the government’s plans for this carbon committee and the concept of a carbon price will only further cement confusion in the minds of the Australian public when what is needed is bipartisan leadership to tackle this diabolical problem.

I find the position taken by the Coalition on climate change as peculiar since the PEER REVIEWED science is beyond doubt that human induced climate change is upon us. The most obvious impacts of melting ice caps and glaciers are well ahead of the IPCC’s worst case scenario and these accelerated impacts are being felt worldwide. You only need to see/read in the news about ships navigating the Arctic Oceans to know the situation in the higher latitudes has changed dramatically in recent time.

Furthermore, Australia is listed in the IPCC’s report as one of the top three regions in the world to be impacted most adversely by climate warming and subsequent changes in climate.

The Coalition, by locking itself out of the government’s climate change committee, and not accepting that a carbon price is inevitable, will continue to be seen as the wrecker of a required bipartisan approach to reducing carbon emissions in Australia. I believe the disruptive stance taken by Tony Abbott and the Coalition will cause climate conscious Coalition voters to be alienated and give them little option but to engage the Greens, who, now that they have some real political power will hopefully temper their more radical policies and begin to look like a real alternate option in the Parliament.

A Green Party that can constructively engage the government of the day and achieve strong climate change abatement action will be a very appealing option in future elections if the Coalition continues with its current misguided path.

The Coalition’s direct action plan coupled with a price on carbon is an admirable approach for Australia to take to reduce emissions in a substantial and sustainable way. Joining the governments committee is the best way for the Coalition to have its Direct Action Plan policy incorporated into the long term plan for carbon abatement in this country.

Most importantly, the coalition and the government must be seen to be working together on a program of carbon abatement so that the Australian public will support what may initially be considered difficult measures. I have great confidence that the Australian public and Australian industry will be proactive and innovative in developing abatement technology, once we have a united cause and a bipartisan carbon reduction target.

A carbon tax should not be seen as a retrograde tax because it can easily be applied in a targeted manner. I believe a carbon tax should be applied to all coal extraction in Australia in the first instance. Such a tax should be applied regardless of coal being for export or domestic use. A coal carbon tax should be based on a world recognised value for carbon and applied at the point of extraction. The tax could be applied at a lower rate initially and increased each year by a set amount until the world parity carbon price is achieved.

The money raised from a coal carbon tax should then be used as seed capital to develop new renewable energy sources and renewable electricity generation capacity and offset the extra costs for electricity supply to low income and vulnerable families through taxation relief and Centre Link payments.

Concentrating the tax initially on coal extraction and electricity generation, currently Australia’s largest source of emissions, would give Australia breathing time to develop a plan to address our transport needs in the most economic way. There is not much point having electric vehicles if we are still generating electricity to charge the new fleet using coal fired power stations.

Finally, I strongly believe Australia has the knowledge, skills and financial capacity to lead the world in renewable energy research and implementation. Perhaps naively but I certainly hope not, I am looking forward to this new parliament creating a bipartisan environment where the best outcome for Australia’s future is achieved with strong climate change policy.

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Author’s Note:

My interest in climate change really stems from my obsession with snow skiing. My wife and I travel to Canada each year to ski and have done this regularly since the 1980’s. I was pretty much a climate change sceptic until about 2004 when I noticed that snow cover at Mt. Hotham and at Red Mountain in Canada was really diminishing year on year. Also the other startling thing that was becoming evident in Canada at that time was the pine beetle infestation. This beetle thrives with warmer winter temperatures, greater than -20oC as long periods below -20oC keep beetle larvae under control through being frozen. In Canada we began to notice large areas of pine trees dying that were healthy in previous years, this beetle has destroyed vast areas of North American conifer forest over the last decade.

Following on from this I began to read more about climate change and realised that the average temperature everybody speaks about is really not an average that impacts all areas equally. The fact that temperatures are rising more quickly and by greater amounts at the poles was really the clincher for me. This process allows for dramatic sea level rise as the polar ice caps melt and as the tundra melts enormous amounts of methane will be released possibly causing a positive feedback loop.

By 2005 I was reading as much material as I could, including researching earlier records of snow fall from the Victorian Alps, and through the last couple of years have been writing regularly to politicians arguing for real climate change action. Not just political waffle.

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Keith Boxer is a climate and sustainability advocate from Bright, Victoria.  Keith is retired after a 22 year career with IBM in which he had numerous international project management roles in the United States, Canada, Japan and Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.  He is currently involved with the Alpine Sustainability Group in Alpine Shire and collaborates regularly in contact with Wodonga and Albury for Climate Health (WATCH) and the North East Regional Sustainability Alliance (NERSA).


The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.

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