The future of emissions trading

While the Senate has not yet passed the bill to repeal the ETS the question arises as to when if ever carbon pricing will return. I’m not a psephologist but I suspect that the Palmer United Party are going to be in a similar position after the next election of having a stake in the balance of power, perhaps more so! Given that Labor appear set on retaining carbon pricing as part of their policy platform and the Greens will sign up to a reasonable scheme, the introduction of carbon pricing appears to depend on either the Liberals growing up or PUP.

Assuming PUP don’t change their mind they have said we won’t have emissions trading until India, China, the USA, Europe, Japan and South Korea do it. So the prospects of carbon pricing appear to depend on the US Tea Party losing a controlling position in the US Senate, or the Australian Tea Party turning into a mature modern party that respects the science.

The most likely to give I think is the PUP. Recall what Bernard Keane said at Crikey:

The key to understanding Palmer is that he’s always about what’s ahead. What’s in the past is irrelevant. The issue of consistency simply doesn’t arise, because Palmer eternally moves forward, toward the next announcement, the next stunt.

Palmer has said that PUP are going to be on the right side of history. The international scene is likely to be somewhat fluid leading up to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Paris in December 2015 where a legally binding post Kyoto deal will be attempted. Negotiations under the UNFCCC are almost continuous but the next big event is in September 2014 when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to a Climate Summit Catalyzing Action:

This Summit will be a different kind of Climate Summit. It is aimed at catalyzing action by governments, business, finance, industry, and civil society in areas for new commitments and substantial, scalable and replicable contributions to the Summit that will help the world shift toward a low-carbon economy.

In preparation for the summit economist Jeffrey Sachs’s Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project has produced an interim report plotting specific measures for the world’s 15 largest economies “to cut their emissions quickly and deeply enough to meet an international agreed goal of limiting warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.”

The 15 economies are, in alphabetical order, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, the USA.

I’ve highlighted the ones nominated by Palmer.

The report

found that it’s technically possible for Australia to get almost all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and to offset the rest by storing carbon in soil or planting more trees.

We can do this while growing our GDP at 2.4% pa.

The importance of Australia’s role in New York in September is possibly two-fold.

Firstly, will Abbott be embarrassing? Will he be negative and disruptive or just irrelevant? It’s extremely unlikely that he will show any vision or learn anything.

I did hear that he was going to be too busy at home destroying Labor’s legacy in climate change to attend. No doubt Julie Bishop will fill in since Greg Hunt is not allowed out alone.

Secondly, and of greater importance, will Palmer as a result of what other leaders say decide that Australia should ride at the head of the peloton and show a bit of leadership without breaking away?

Palmer saves the world!

Clive Palmer Addresses National Press Club

Meanwhile here on the local scene PUP are planning to introduce their ETS on trainer wheels as an amendment to the legislation proposing the demise of the Climate Change Authority.

33 thoughts on “The future of emissions trading”

  1. “Palmer saves the world!” Has an enticing ring to it, but I suspect even he would see it as over-reach. What would he do next?

    He’s more likely to take smaller steps forward, and sadly, not all of them positive in terms of carbon pollution reduction.

  2. While this is pure speculation on my part, I’m not convinced of the long-term future of the PUP Senators as a united voting bloc.

    Jacqui Lambie strikes me as sincere, dedicated, bright, very strong-willed, idealistic, but not particularly schooled in the Machiavellian ways of practical politics. And there’s no real binding ideology – even the binding ideology of seeking power that holds the ALP Right together. At some point, on some issue, it’s not hard to imagine that she and Palmer are going to have a massive falling out.

    As for the alliance with Ricky Muir, who knows what positions he’s going to end up taking over time as he becomes more familiar with various issues?

    As for Palmer himself, I think Lenore Taylor’s analysis, like Ben Eltham’s, is on point. Palmer is in this for Palmer.

  3. Robert, interesting articles.

    WRT to Lenore Taylor, I think it’s too soon to call a pattern.

    WRT to Eltham, he overcooks the electricity thing a bit. Certainly nickel refineries use a lot of electricity, but actual miners not so much. More diesel, which was outside the ETS as I understand it.

    However his basic point about conflict of interest is obviously valid. Then I always thought Malcolm Fraser should have left the room when anything to do with rural policy was on the table.

    Palmer consistently espouses social values more than your average Liberal pollie. How this reflects in his actions we’ll have to wait and see.

    I have a concern for Palmer’s health. He looks like a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen.

    Muir has made a point of his autonomy, but as to the rest, a fair point about their lack of a binding ideology. Lazarus looks like a team player, but Lambie could become Bolshie.

  4. Look on the bright side – that’s one promise Tinea Abutt has kept. There won’t be many more, since he’s already broken most of them.

  5. Brian: Abbott has given us a very clear reminder that things like the RET, ETS and carbon price won’t work as drivers for long term investment unless they have durable bipartisan support.
    For example, the RET has created no new investment in renewable power for the last 18 months and the value of RET credits has halved since the Tea party came to power. An investor in renewable power would have to be a mug to invest in renewables on the assumption that nothing bad is going to happen to the RET scheme over the years required for an investment to pay off. There is also no reason why anyone who as invested in good faith on the basis of either the carbon tax or RET will get any compensation.
    By contrast, the ACT solar auction scheme is continuing to drive investment in renewables despite Tony and despite the possibility that the next ACT government will can the scheme. The key difference is that the ACT scheme is contract based. This means that contracts signed now will get the support of the law.
    The other key advantage of contract based systems is that they can be done at local level no matter who the federal government is.

  6. Bernard Keane at Crikey is scathing. He says it will cost us a lot more this way in the future.

    It’s an attack, primarily, of old white men, men in complete denial about climate change, on the future and on the young.

    Let us wish them all long and healthy lives, so that they can witness how much their poor judgement and opportunism will cost Australia.

  7. Let’s not forget the first party to effect blockage of climate change action policy.
    Not PUP but the Greens.
    Had that gone through the Senate back then where might action be now with a following 3 years of ” tweaking ” and control of both houses?
    I bet the CPRS is looking better by the day to their voters, but alas, now nothing at all.
    The greens had ALP by the short and curlys back then and pulled too hard resulting in ( on this issue ) one with no balls and the other a hand full of cobblers.

  8. It’s an attack, primarily, of old white men, men in complete denial about climate change,

    Careful Mr Keane, you’ll have Val ( in her padded cell ) screaming about ageism, racism and gender vilification.
    Or maybe not.

  9. The problem is that we sometimes start to think of the carbon price or ETS as “the bottom line” Some times, as for example right now, it is worth remembering that a key bottom line is reducing emissions, not a particular strategy for educing emissions.

  10. From Lenore Taylor’s article, (Val @ 4) Treasury advice to the incoming LNP government:

    Treasury described a carbon-pricing mechanism as “the only realistic way of achieving the deep cuts in emissions that are required”.

    They went on: ”A market mechanism can achieve the necessary abatement at a cost per tonne of emissions that is far lower than alternative direct-action policies. Moreover, many direct action measures cannot be scaled up, and, for those that can, the cost per tonne of abatement would rise rapidly, imposing further costs on taxpayers and consumers. All of this serves to underscore the conclusion that the sooner an emissions trading scheme can be implemented the better.

    “Too much time has already been wasted, for which the Australian community will necessarily pay a high price.”

    That’s what the greenies in Treasury said.

    But Gillard was right the first time when she said it needed bipartisanship. But an ETS is now off the table for the foreseeable future, so John D is right, we have to look elsewhere.

  11. Jumpy @ 10
    It’s empirically based – those opposing action on climate change are more likely to be older conservative white men. You can see that in the coalition, and research in USA and England also shows the same pattern. Countries that have a higher proportion of women in politics are more likely to act on climate change. Younger people are more in favour of action. Research in USA found “confident, conservative, white males” disproportionately represented amongst climate change deniers.

    Can send you details of articles if you are interested, but in the first place why don’t you just use your own eyes and take a look at who was voting to repeal the carbon price?

  12. Brian @ 13
    Possibly in Victoria at the next election we could even get some kind of Labor-Greens government. If so it might well be possible they could look at some of the kinds of action John is talking about.

    I live in hope! But really I think that is quite a possible scenario, so would be interested to learn more about these solar auctions and other measures.

  13. I’ve just been reading Ian Chubb’s detailed and generally excellent book Power Failure: the inside story of climate politics under Rudd and Gillard.

    It seems that by the time we got to carbon pricing most people did not understand climate change, did not understand carbon pricing and did not understand the connection between the two. Moreover they just knew that electricity prices were going up, but did not understand the full reasons and were open to the suggestion that the carbon ‘tax’ was to blame. Also they didn’t make the connection between tax cuts and carbon tax compensation.

    Given that the LNP tea party are unlikely to change in any foreseeable time frame, it would still be brave for Labor plus the Greens plus PUP plus a few to go down that track. Basically Palmer is probably right; we’ll have to wait for our trading partners to move. But I’d like to think Europe plus about three of four of the biggest 15 would do, especially if either the US or China is included.

  14. Val

    why don’t you just use your own eyes and take a look at who was voting to repeal the carbon price?

    At the last election ?
    About 89% of the electorate.
    Both ALP and LNP promised to axe it, in fact Rudd said he already did.
    Plenty of non-old, non-white females among them.

  15. @17
    I’m sorry you don’t understand that I meant voting in Parliament, and I’m sorry that you don’t understand that an emissions trading scheme still puts a price on carbon, but there’s not much I can do to help you.

  16. Val @18
    That’s ok.
    I too am sorry.
    When you spouted English and US ” research ” to justify Keanes vilifying remarks as empirically based I assumed said research was broadly based and not just on our Senate.

    Anyhoo, perhaps you can help me.
    When the price/tax was passed in the Senate ( Nov 2011 ) was this an endorsement of ” old white men ” and their environmental position ?

  17. Inspired by Jumpy’s rather snarky remarks, I’ve done some number crunching on the gender balance in the votes on carbon pricing, and the results are pretty interesting.

    (Jumpy, if you’re big enough to admit the implications of these numbers, I’ll be pleased. Sadly, I won’t be surprised if you’re not.)

    Voting on the carbon price (clean energy futures legislation) in 2011 (HoR and Senate combined):
    For: 72 male MPs, 43 female MPs (63% men, 37% women)
    Against: 87 male MPs, 23 female MPs (80% men, 20% women)
    Overall gender balance in parliament: 71% male, 29% female

    Voting on the repeal of the carbon price in 2014:
    For repeal: 107 male MPs, 25 female MPs (81% men, 19% women)
    Against repeal: 49 male MPs, 44 female MPs (53% men, 47% women)
    Overall gender balance in parliament: 69% male, 31% female.

    I haven’t done a statistical analysis on this, but I’m sure it’s significant. The proximate cause of course is that there are more women on the progressive side of parliament than the conservative side. This difference also increased between 2011 and 2014.

    When I get time I will write this up on my blog, with more detailed analysis, but you heard it first here, folks.

  18. John @21
    Val has done great work there on the genderism front.
    Now for Val to define ” old ” ( I’m going over 55, thats top 20% of expectancy of 68.5 for men ) and “white “.
    Careful with that last one Val, you could get dragged through court for offending someone who ” self identifies ” otherwise .

    I’m just trying to defend a minority that I hope to join one day.
    ( Roughly 17% of the global pop is white, thats 8.5% after women removed, and not old leaves 1.7% of the worlds and shrinking)
    That’s right, the evil 1.7% has stopped climate action.

  19. John @21
    John, you know as well as I do that ‘people of x group are more likely to do y’ does NOT equal ‘all people of x group do y’.

    The more interesting thing – which hopefully will be clearer when I get this info on my blog in more detail – is that in 2014 the opponents of carbon pricing are more likely to be male and the supporters of carbon pricing are more likely to be female.

    Some quite interesting, and little noticed, gender shift has happened in our parliament since 2011.

  20. That,s the point I was trying to make Val: That is why I am interested in what individuals think about climate action, not the gender statistics on what people think. The gender stats on climate action are a distraction unless you are doing something like planning a gender targeted campaign.
    Gender stats can become important when looking at things that affect a particular gender – like maternity leave.

  21. No John you are absolutely way out of line on this. I can’t even be bothered explaining to you why, except for two things: one is social justice, the other is pragmatically that research shows countries with more women in government are acting more on climate change. You don’t understand these issues, but you need to educate to yourself. It’s not ok to be ignorant on human rights issues.

  22. Val: I remember as a 12 yr old discussing with my widowed mother how much easier it would be if she were paid the male basic wage. I have also been successfully married for a long time to a coal miner’s daughter, who, as one of our friends put it, “was liberated before anyone had heard of women’s lib”. A woman who has put considerable effort into sorting out the misconceptions of my illogical male mind. So I do have at least some idea of social injustice in general and social injustice to women.
    However, I also understand that injecting gender issues into important issues like climate action becomes an undesirable diversion. It can be just as off-putting as men who claim they are the only ones who can do……. properly.

  23. John @ 28
    I am not “injecting” gender issues into the subject, John. The gender issues are there, as I have clearly shown.

    It seems remarkably arrogant of you to suggest that you have a better understanding of these issues than I do, not simply because I – like your wife – have lived experience of what it is like to be treated as inferior, nor even that I have spent years studying the issues at postgraduate level, but also simply because I took the time to find and produce the evidence, above, which you have chosen to ignore.

  24. Further, John, anyone who finds it “off-putting” to have to look at evidence, should question why.

  25. It seems remarkably arrogant of you ( John ) to suggest that you have a better understanding of these issues than I ( Val ) do.

    Val, darl, that never happened in reality.
    Try to be helpful and tell us the carbon footprint differences between men and women on a local/national/global level and become relevant to the topic rather than a distraction.
    Your call…..

  26. Think I’m done here. You guys are obviously so much smarter than me, you can have the discussion to yourselves.

    You obviously don’t need women to get involved in these discussions.

  27. Oh dear!

    When I saw jumpy @ 10, I winced, but I have a free speech bias and I hoped that adults would sort themselves out. Jumpy, there was nothing whatsoever amiss with Bernard Keane’s reference to “old white men”. There is, however much amiss about your reference to Val’s “padded cell” and “screaming”. It may have been an attempt at humour, but was provocative and I thought somewhat offensive.

    Val @ 14, I found your response measured, interesting and on topic, especially:

    It’s empirically based – those opposing action on climate change are more likely to be older conservative white men. You can see that in the coalition, and research in USA and England also shows the same pattern. Countries that have a higher proportion of women in politics are more likely to act on climate change. Younger people are more in favour of action. Research in USA found “confident, conservative, white males” disproportionately represented amongst climate change deniers.

    After that I lost contact with the thread and mercifully was in transit from Rockhampton to Emerald when jumpy @ 31 appeared.

    Jumpy, that is clearly offensive and if you are going to make remarks like that your comments will have to be moderated. You may have attempted humour, but ended up being supercilious and patronising.

    John @ 21, Val was saying nothing about you and me. She’s right @ 24, what you have there is an error in logic, as Val pointed out.

    I’ll leave it there, except to say that the gender dimension is always relevant in my view, and Val addresses it from scholarship and evidence rather than from faddism, ideology or negative personal experience. Central to the future of emissions trading is how power is articulated, and gender balance within parliament is relevant, if, as Val’s research has found, countries that have a higher proportion of women in politics are more likely to act on climate change.

    Val has emailed me, as the “report this comment” function does not appear to be working. Val has also commented on her own blog on her experience here. Val, I look forward to your post on gender and attitudes to climate change.

    Val, I have valued your comments here on gender, and would like to cultivate an environment where you will feel comfortable about commenting in future. It’s important that everyone treats Val with respect and courtesy, and in particular respects her scholarship on feminist issues.

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