Wednesday, 1 February 2017


During 2017 the federal Government is committed to a climate policy review to determine how Australia will meet the pledge it made in Paris to reduce its carbon emissions.   It pledged a reduction of 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Government’s current policy “Direct Action”, involving paying polluters from tax revenues to improve their behaviour, is widely acknowledged to be unequal to the task.

So the review is important to Australia’s ability to meet its international obligations.  Also important is the need to canvass a range of possibilities to select the most appropriate.

As electricity generation accounts for about a third of our total carbon emissions, it makes sense that it should be the focus of efforts to reduce emissions.

In December Energy Minister Frydenberg discussed what could be considered during the forthcoming review.  One of the options was an emissions intensity scheme on the electricity generation industry.

Within two days this was decisively dropped.  The reason was the angry reaction from the climate-change-denying rump of the Coalition.  Consequently the Prime Minister declared the Government would not be taking any action that would increase the cost of energy.

What is particularly interesting about this knee-jerk reaction is that an emissions intensity scheme on electricity generation was considered the best approach by a number of authorities advising the Government on energy and climate change. These include the Climate Change Authority, the Chief Scientist and the Australian Energy Market Commission.

In pointing out the folly of the Government dismissing options out of hand, economist Ross Gittens referred to the fact that we are not all climate deniers and that  “it’s our community and our economy  and prime ministers don’t get to dismiss options without us even being allowed to think about them and decide what we prefer”.

Furthermore modelling suggests that consumer’s electricity prices will continue to rise (as they have been doing consistently over the years) under “business as usual” but will rise less under an emissions intensity scheme than under other curbs on electricity emissions.

The Government’s refusal to consider an emissions intensity scheme makes no sense.

            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 23, 2017.