The Coalitions Direct Action policy

Of the people who have criticised the Gillard governments carbon tax over recent weeks, not many alternative solutions to climate change have been offered. Given the bipartisan support for climate action, and the fact that both parties have the same emissions reduction target of 5% by 2020, doing nothing is not an option. Is Tony Abbott?s plan to reduce emissions more cost effective than a carbon tax? Not much has been said about Direct Action.

The Coalitions ‘Direct Action’ policy has a number of strategies that aim to reduce Australia?s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Coalition says the majority of its emission reductions will come from soil carbon sequestration. Soil carbon is a promising technology being investigated by a number of countries. The problem is, the technology is not proven. Even if the coalition Government spends billions, we don’t really know how much carbon we can sequester. The Coalition’s policy doesn’t explain how it will measure soil carbon.

According to a comprehensive scientific review of soil carbon technology by the CSIRO last year, “a general lack of research in this area is currently preventing a more quantitative assessment of the carbon sequestration potential of agricultural soils”. The CSIRO says it is “extremely difficult” to predict whether soil carbon farming practices will work in the future.

The Coalition is basing 60 per cent of its Direct Action policy on a technology that the CSIRO says it can’t predict will work, and can’t measure adequately

Another key part of the Coalitions policy is what Tony Abbott describes as a 15,000-strong standing green army. The ?green army? would have the job of planting 60 million new trees in Australia. In January last year when Tony Abbott introduced Direct Action, he said the 15,000 people would be recruited at an average cost per place of $50,000 a year for a 15,000-strong conservation corps. He said it would be very expensive. The key question is how cost effective it is? That is a question that needs to be looked at in detail in a later column.

Like the Gillard Government’s policy, Direct Action will spend billions on retiring dirty power plants in the La Trobe valley like Hazelwood. Like the Government’s plan, Direct Action promises to invest in clean tech and renewable energy.

Unlike the Government’s scheme, however, it will not cap Australia’s carbon emissions, it will not allow carbon pollution credits to be traded on a market, and it will not charge polluters for their emissions. Instead, the Coalition plans to tackle carbon emissions by paying industry to pollute less, through an Emissions Reduction Fund. It is envisaged that the Fund will invest around $1.2 billion in direct CO2 emissions reduction activities through to 2020.

The Coalition will also spend another billion on policies such as its $400 million “one million solar roofs” program.

That’s money that the Coalition says will come from “normal budget processes?. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have already promised that money will not come from extra taxes. That means an incoming Abbott government has committed to more than $10 billion in spending cuts in order to pay for its carbon policies.

Can Direct Action actually achieve a 5 per cent cut in Australian greenhouse gas emissions out to 2020? Nearly every credible analyst says no. The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss and Matt Grudnoff have performed the most substantial analysis of Direct Action. They conclude that Direct Action will cost taxpayers $11 billion a year, require a thicket of new regulations and hundreds of new bureaucrats to enforce them.

The Australian National Audit Office and the Grattan Institute have both found that Direct Action is likely to achieve any emissions reductions at an exorbitant cost. The Coalition’s ‘one million solar roofs’, for instance, will cost $133 for every tonne of carbon it abates. Labor’s cost is $23 a tonne.
Matthew Nott

Solar for Tarraganda Fire Shed.

Image1_aug11Last week solar panels were installed on the Tarraganda Rural Fire Service shed. It is the seventh fire shed in SE NSW to be set up with solar panels. The panels were funded as a result of a recent Pyramid Power bulk buy deal, and proceeds from the last two CEFE Bega River Big Swim’s.

Clean Energy For Eternity will endeavor to assist all 200 Fire Sheds in NSW get solar panels on their roof-tops by 2020.

The Tarraganda RFS are actively looking for new members.
Matthew Nott

Andrew Constance agrees to a public discussion about a carbon price.

All the economic modelling I have seen suggests that the most cost effective way to reduce emissions is by a price on carbon. Households will be compensated for the increased cost of living, and treasury modelling predicts that 2300 extra jobs will be created in SE NSW by 2020. Wind farms, wave farms and community solar farms have the potential to bring hundreds of thousands of investment dollars to the Bega Valley, all because of a carbon price. Farmers will be able to look at carbon sequestration as a valuable supplement to their income. That is good news for our region.

There are many who oppose a carbon tax. Local papers are full of letters to the editor criticising a carbon tax, but not one of them have suggested an alternative strategy. Most of the letters have suggested that Australia as a nation should not attempt to reduce emissions.

Reasons put forward to oppose a carbon price include scepticism about the science; the fact that Australia is only a small emittor; that Australia should not adopt a leadership position; that jobs will be lost in polluting industries, and that climate change is a problem that should be sorted out by others.

Despite our small population, Australia has risen to many challenges in our history, and with the introduction of a carbon price in 2012, we will do so again.

The NSW premier Barry O?Farrell is opposed to a carbon tax. He said last week that a NSW treasury report showed ?the carbon tax would slash the growth of many industries, cut jobs and push up prices?. That report has not been released. Federal Treasury modelling shows employment will continue to grow under a carbon price, with an extra 1.6 million jobs being created nationwide by 2020. Employment in the steel and coal industries will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate under a carbon price.

Our local member Mr Andrew Constance is opposed to a carbon price. I know that he is not looking for excuses. Mr Constance has stated on a number of occasions that he supports a 100% renewable energy target for the Bega electorate. He may feel that there is a better way to reduce emissions than a carbon price.

I would like to give Andrew Constance an opportunity to explain what approach his party proposes to address the reduction of greenhouse gases for NSW. If he has a strategy that is more cost effective than a carbon tax, I would very much like to hear it.

A public meeting with Andrew Constance and myself, chaired by Steve Strevens, will be held in the near future to discuss what is the best way forward for our region.
Matthew Nott

Is anyone up for a challenge?

I think Australia should do something about climate change. I thing a price on carbon is the most cost effective way to reduce emissions, and I think a price on carbon will provide an economic stimulus to SE NSW.

There are many who would disagree. No matter what position you take, climate change is an important issue for our part of the world. What say we have a public debate?

We should have a debate to answer three questions;

* Should Australia do something about climate change,
* What is the most cost effective way to reduce emissions,
* Will a carbon price benefit SE NSW?s regional economy.

My position is clear. Is there anyone with an opposing view who would be prepared to take me on in a public debate?
Matthew Nott
Australia should lead on climate solutions.

Australia is probably the most vulnerable country on the planet to climate change. We are the driest inhabited continent, with variable and unpredictable rainfall. Climate change is likely to make rainfall increasing unpredictable, making life difficult for farmers. Providing water for our cities is going to present challenges and costs.
80% of Australia?s population live in a coastal location. That makes this country vulnerable to rising sea levels.
It is in our national interest to do whatever we can to encourage other nations to take strong action on climate change. We can only do that from a position of strength.

So often, politicians tell us that we must not act until the rest of the world does.

Waiting until the rest of the world acts is an excuse that could be used by all nations. If all countries had that attitude, we would face a dangerous Mexican stand-off that would see global emissions spiral out of control. If Australia (with the world’s highest per capita pollution) fails to act decisively, we risk being used as an excuse for inaction by others.

Fortunately many countries are leading the way. 32 countries have now introduced a price on carbon. Two provinces in China are set to trial an Emission Trading Scheme (both those provinces have populations significantly bigger than Australia?s). 10 US states have introduced a price on carbon.
Australia needs to stand up to our responsibilities. We cannot afford to cower behind the smokescreen of cheap coal.
Matthew Nott