For more than decade, the right wing of politics in Australia has procrastinated over addressing climate change. Time and again a concerned public has been fed the claim that Australia would be wasting its time “going it alone” on pricing carbon, and would only disadvantage Australia's polluters in the world market.
At the same time we are assured that if Australia was to reduce its carbon emission to zero, it would make no difference to climate change because of the relatively small percentage Australia contributes to the world's overall emissions.
These arguments ignore the moral perspective of Australia being the world's highest per-capita polluter, or that Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal, and soon to become the largest exporter of equally polluting unconventional gas.
Since introducing a price on carbon, Australia's Labor Party has been widely pilloried by mining and other polluting industries, and opposition politicians, with the latter vowing to do away with the “tax” if and when it regains power.
But now the first of those arguments is set to be turned on its head. China, the usual target of right-wing finger-pointing when talking pollution, has just launched the world's second largest carbon trading scheme, significantly stepping up its efforts to combat climate change and its own air quality problems (the European Union has the world's largest scheme, covering 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2-e).
China has been indirectly pricing carbon for years, but this pilot scheme will be the first mandatory carbon market in the country, expected to cover around 700 million tonnes of CO2-e by 2014, with plans to implement a national scheme around 2016 which is predicted to result in a reduction in emissions of 4.5 billion tonnes by 2020 from the 2005 base line.
When compared to Australia's 380 million tonnes, and California’s 165 million tonnes, China's figures are impressive, and show what can be achieved if the political will is present. It's time for our political dinosaurs to wake up and follow China's lead, and for the general public to get behind any move towards a clean energy future.
- J. Edwards
This article was the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column published in The Daily Examiner on 1st July. It appeared under the title: "China plan is wake-up call in push for cleaner environment."