Jul 072008

Actually, the title is a little misleading, because I understand what the government’s proposed ETS is, but I am in the dark – as are all Australians at this point – as to just how it will end up working.

Will petrol be in or out? How much will our power bills go up by? Apart from seeming to be the buffer at the end of the line, exactly how will an Emissions Trading Scheme impact on the lives of ordinary Australians?

While I am a believer in the validity of climate change science, I am dubious about carbon trading as a form of restricting how industry and business … and ordinary people like us … use carbon generating energy sources to the long-term detriment of the environment we all rely upon for our survival. Our climate is changing, that much is irrefutable. The science cannot be ignored, except by those who chose to emulate the ostrich. But how is creating a marketplace based upon essentially negotiable instruments – carbon credits – going to achieve a given end? A meeting of pre-determined and carved in stone, carbon production targets. Who decides which industries, and which exponents within those industries, receive how many credits? The main concern I have about this proposed ETS is this. Profiteering. There is no way anyone will ever convince me that a negotiable instrument can’t be perverted into monetary profit through artful use of an essentially altruistic system.

These, and countless other questions are doubtless filling the minds of those who are paying attention to what’s transpiring on the political stage today. I haven’t had a chance to read the Garnaut Report yet, but I plan to. The fleeting glimpse I’ve had to date tells me it’s seeded with the requisite doom and gloom predictions if we don’t adopt some means of carbon production restriction. That’s fine, and I understand why we need to do something about our profligate use of limited resources at the expense of the environment. I want to know exactly how this ‘something’ is to be formulated, what input we the people will have into it, and just what the costs will be, not just from my back pocket, but to the countries economy as a whole. Yes, we’ve ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and as much symbolism as that act might be, we now need to accept that our word is indeed our bond.

It’s clear to me that nationalistic arguments will go on for many years, even decades, between the developed nations of the world and the un and under-developed nations who all want to reach our level of affluence. I believe that we, as a developed nation and a party to the G8 collective, have a responsibility, as do all other developed nations, to act constructively in restricting further carbon generation. It’s not a case of one in-all in. It’s a matter of no-one wanting to be first off the mark, but someone has to be. Unless leadership examples are set by developed, industrialised nations, the developing world has every right to give the rest of us the bird.

Clearly, the Rudd Government has a plan in mind. I certainly hope there’s a plan. The alternative is making it all up as we go along! The government has a mandate to instigate climate change mitigation policies. Such was a major policy platform of the Labor Party during the last election campaign. What I’d like to know, as someone who willingly gave the government that mandate, is how the government intends going about exercising that mandate. Details, please. Intricate, exhaustive details. I can’t yet speak for the Garnaut Report, but no-one will convince me that this proposed Emissions Trading Scheme doesn’t already have some meat on it’s undoubtedly copious skeleton.

2010 is eighteen months away. I believe it’s now time for Rudd and company to start bringing the general populace into the ETS tent. Not just business and industry, but all Australians. Especially those of us who’ll wind up bearing the major brunt of the costs of being carbon frugal.