What is the carbon tax?
At the centre of the government’s policy on climate change is pricing carbon. Many commentators and politicians have referred to this as a “carbon tax”. The idea is that polluters will pay per tonne of carbon they release into the atmosphere. This cost will initially be set at $23, and increase gradually until 2015, when we will shift to a trading scheme that will let the market set the cost. This is widely thought of as the most effective and least costly mechanism to reduce carbon output and reduce the level of climate change that is occurring.
Right now, when you purchase a product that relies on carbon-intensive materials or manufacturing processes, the price you pay does not represent the cost incurred by the environment. The iron ore used to create the product could be sourced from the highest polluting mine in the world, the electricity used to power the manufacturing plant could be provided by the dirtiest coal mine in the world, and the trucks used to transport the product to its final destination in a supermarket could run on the dirtiest fuels in the world, and it would make no difference to the price. With a price on carbon, this equation would change. The amount of carbon pollution involved in producing a product would start to be factored into its final price. Products produced through dirty processes will become more expensive, thereby making it possible for other products produced through cleaner processes to compete on price.
Yes, that’s right. The price of certain goods that are reliant on carbon pollution for their production will go up. However, the majority of Australians will be compensated for this cost, and this cost will be relatively small for most items. Visit the household compensation calculator if you wish to find out where you stand once the price on carbon is introduced.
How will this drive a move towards a cleaner future you might wonder. Well, it’s not hard to see that if pollution-intensive processes make goods more expensive, companies will look to reduce their pollution footprint in order to lower their costs. That’s what businesses do – improve efficiency year on year. It’s one of the key drivers of growth. For this reason, it is actually not necessary for the consuming public to change their practices, although that would help drive you own costs down.