July 12, 2011

Is Australia acting ahead of others?

People often ask why should Australia act to reduce their carbon pollution when other countries are not. The reality is that many other countries have already made huge steps towards reducing their carbon output, and that includes developing nations like China. Countries have started this transformation to take advantage of the economic opportunities stemming from the next stage of global development that will be powered by clean energy. We are starting to see the emergence of more and more solar power projects around the globe in addition to the already large number of projects underway for wind power. The clear trend is undeniably towards clean and renewable energy sources.

A broad range of countries have introduced, or are planning, market based emissions trading schemes and carbon taxes. Australia’s top five trading partners—China, Japan, the United States (US), the Republic of Korea and India—and another six of our top twenty trading partners (New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands) have implemented or are piloting carbon trading or taxation schemes at national, state or the city level. Many countries have renewable energy targets, including fourteen of Australia’s top twenty trading partners. Energy performance standards for appliances, buildings and industrial plants, as well as incentives for the use and development of low emission products and technologies are now widespread.

In fact, China has pledged to quadruple its current investment of almost $50 billion per year on renewables with the aim of reaching a total of 500GW of renewable energy output by 2020. Right now, China already has 44.7GW of wind energy production (we have a little more than 1Gw). In fact, of all energy infrastructure built in China over the course of 2010, 26% of it is renewable!

Implemented and planned climate change actions in major emitting economies

The European Union enacted an emissions trading scheme in 2005 which places a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide that can be emitted by big polluters. It operates in the 27 EU member states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and covers power stations, combustion plants, oil refineries and iron and steel works, as well as factories making cement, glass, lime, bricks, ceramics, pulp, paper and board. Their current target is a 21% cut of 2005 emissions by 2025 (Australia’s is a 5% cut of 2000 emissions by 2020). Some EU nations have pledged even greater cuts to their emissions. The UK, for example, has pledged to cut 50% of its 1990-level emissions by 2025.

The US has its own cap and trade legislation in the works, although this has stalled in the Senate due to big Republican wins in the mid-term elections. Nevertheless, many US states have taken steps to implement their own strategies to cut their carbon output. California, aside from providing massive incentives to renewable energy companies, has implemented its own cap and trade regime (although this has been delayed for a year to ensure compliance). The New York governor in 2009 signed an executive order, pledging an 80% cut of 1990 emissions by 2050 (our target is an 80% cut of 2000 emissions by 2050). Many more states have taken steps to reduce their carbon output, and the US Environmental Protection Agency has a comprehensive list here.

  • John S

    Excellent article that discredits the false scare campaign.

  • Steve

    Steve B
    Essentially this is a tax on air, a government’s dream.

  • Darren

    I am guessing that water prices are also a tax on water and electricity prices are a price on electrons (if u have enough education to know what that means). Maybe we should view taxes on fuel as taxes on ancient dead animals too. how dare they. Carbon makes up the atmosphere, yes. but the amounts we are putting into it are way above any natural occurences (over the same timeperiod, screw your volcano crap) and at a way faster rate. also the tax attacks these emissions, because things causing these emissions usually are the polluters in the first place.

  • Obaia2000

    Right now, China already has 44.7GW of wind energy production (we have a little more than 1Gw).
    What percentage of China’s total GW of power produced is wind energy production.
    compared to
    What percentage of AUS total GW of power produced is wind energy.
    Some people are easily led. Thining GEE china has 44.7 times the wind energy
    its a bit atuned to AUS having a thimble of water added to a glass of water
    and china having 44.7 thimbles of water added to an olympic swimming pool.
    Propaganda leeds the gulable.  

  • Obaia2000

    Darren Why are we shipping HUGE amounts of coal to other countries
    if we are so concerned about burning fossil fuel,  creatig man made CO2 ??
    That coal is burned in the same atmosphere. If you have enough education to know that. Also man made CO2 is about point 0.3 percent of total if you look it up. Making natural 99.7 percent.

  • sammy

    A tax on air?? Really? More like a cap on total anthropogenic output of Carbon I thought. Putting a price tag on carbon emissions IS the only option that will result in reduced emissions plus generate an industrial and social culture of minimising pollution.

  • sammy

    Well, obviously we are shipping coal, along with heaps of other resources (uranium, gas) to make a heap of money. Is this responsible? Debatable. All countries export/exploit their natural resources to become wealthy. We are I think the only developed economy to have avoided recession thus far. Just because we have decided that burning coal is bad doesn’t mean that world trade will cease immediately. Infrastructure and business cannot change overnight, and large parts of the world depend on coal for their power. I see nothing wrong with continuing to burn and sell coal until it can be tangibly phased out with renewables. WHY shoot ourselves in the foot? Australia is a lucky country.

  • Tuva

    Just a little detail: The “natural” CO2 is a closed loop – what comes out (from decaying processes, breathing, etc) goes back in (through photosynthesis). The anthropogenic (or man mad if you will) is a net addition to the atmosphere.

  • Timschuster

    This article is a joke. Meaningless statistics like comparing China’s gross Wind GW with ours (err they have 50 times the population at least) is a deliberate attempt to mislead and obfuscate.

    Sure we need to look after the environment. But not at 23 AUD a tonne when USA and China price at Zero a tonne and Europe price at abt 7.50 AUD (price as at 01_04_12).

    You greenies might get a warm fuzzy feeling when u go to bed at night but at what cost to our economy? Do you ever consider that?

  • Itguy98

    In that list Australia is the only one with a current Carbon tax… The article waffles aroud what other counties are doing without answering the question. Why us first?

  • random kid doing his HSC

    Good article but it didn’t help me at all for this assigment arhh 

  • Ryan

    you do see the column in the table called carbon pricing? That is a price on carbon which is exactly what the carbon tax is. the primary difference is that those schemes are mainly set by the market and not a fixed price like ours. the current plan is to migrate to a carbon credit trading system which is what the other countries are doing. 
    short answer is we arent the first

  • PJMW

    LOL…loving this comment!  ’Propaganda leeds the gulable’.  Just in case you didn’t realise right-wing extremists motivated by fear and ignorance are particularly stupid….
    Or maybe I’m just ‘gulable’ :-)

  • DontvoteLiberal

    US gov’t values the impact of carbon at USD$36/tonne, Australian gov’t taxes at AUD$23/tonne. Not only is the tax justified – maybe it should be increased! http://­www.huffingtonpost.co­m/jamie-henn/­fossil-fuel-divestmen­t_b_3394142.html

  • Berala Bob

    Somewhere in the depths of my mind I seem to recall that Labors Carbon Tax Price was set a little high (to please the Greens?) but was to reduce to world parity pricing after a couple of years. If my recall is correct than Clive Palmers scheme is basically no different to the currently in place Labor scheme.

    If it is to be priced at world parity price and that price is currently at zero (according to Palmer) then what are the Liberals really on about.

    It seems to me that they are of the opinion that the more noise they make about it the more people will believe that the current scheme is the absolute worst thing that has happened to us as Australians.

    I do know one thing for sure though …. The abolishment of the carbon tax will do very little to reduce our power bills.