Saturday, June 18, 2011

Carbon Tax information forum

Just returned from a forum hosted by a collaboration of local community organisations to provide accessible information on carbon pricing and climate change science. John Thwaites, now the chair of Climate Works, described the difference between a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme - a critical difference being that a trading scheme includes a cap on emissions, while a tax does not. Peter Christoff, from the University of Melbourne, was forceful in spelling out the climate consequences of the emission reduction targets that are set. Should our emissions continue to track on current trends we are likely to face warming of 4 degrees whereas most scientists agree that warming of 2 degrees is the absolute maximum for a safe climate. All speakers rued the lack of bi-partisanship in tackling climate change and contrasted this with Germany and the UK. We were reminded that Australia is the biggest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Speakers agreed that any revenues arising from a carbon tax should be directed towards assisting low income households [for whom energy costs are a higher proportion of expenditure than a higher income households] and reserved to deal with the high costs of climate change adaptation. It was emphasised that any action taken now will be cheaper than action taken later. Peter Christoff emphasised that energy efficiency technologies are known and available to implement right now. Thwaites said in response to a question that only 18% of the anticipated rise in the price of electricity is attributable to the carbon price - the rest is for network and infrastructure improvements to meet our growing demand for electricity.

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