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Climate change – Australian government further entrenches the market myth

I have very little time again today so I will have to type quickly. Yesterday, the Australian government announced it has scrapped its proposed $15 per tonne carbon price floor as part of the new Carbon Tax that it brought into law in July 2012. With the introduction of the carbon price in July 2012, the biggest polluters pay $A23 per tonne for the carbon they emit. The Government plans to allow this system (the Carbon Tax) to evolve into an emissions trading scheme (ETS) on July 1, 2015 so that instead of setting the price for carbon the government will set the quotas and let the market set the price. Yesterday, the Government made one significant change to their proposed 2015 move to an ETS. It announced that from July 1, 2015, Australia will partially link its carbon pricing system to the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). This move only entrenches the mistakes that are evident in the first proposal. Quite apart from the problems of a pure ETS, the schemes that are proposed are so politically compromised that their “market credentials” vanish. The problem of carbon emissions should be approached via rules-based regulation rather than a half-cocked neo-liberal market-based solution which will reward big polluters, lawyers and hedge funds.

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Australia’s response to climate change gets worse …

Just when you thought that the Australian Government’s response to climate change – the proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) which promises to generously exempt or compensate the heavy polluters – was bad enough, it was announced today that it will also now indefinitely exclude agriculture from the ETS. The decision is purely political as was the earlier decision to exempt agriculture until 2015. All the Government is doing is appeasing the Opposition so that it can get the legislation through the Senate. The Opposition recently revealed that the majority of their parliamentarians deny there is a climate change problem. Why would you want to trade concessions with them? But the fundamental problem lies in the fact that the neo-liberal market-based paradigm is a totally unsuitable framework for dealing with climate change.

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Population policy – cyclical or long-term?

The Australian government announced that as a result of the rising unemployment it would cut the skilled migrant intake by nearly 20,000 to 115,000 this financial year. It also removed some key industries (construction and manufacturing) from the critical skills list which will prevent firms from sourcing tradepersons from abroad unless they can prove local labour is not available. The announcement while seemingly a sensible statement of the jobs equation – less jobs require less workers – once again raises the question of how population policy should be formulated.

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Be careful what we wish for …

The global recession is presenting a new dilemma for the first world which will have significant impacts long after growth has returned. We saw in recent years that the price of oil rose sharply as the demand of energy from emerging nations skyrocketed. While we clearly have a short-term incentive at least for China to redirect its economic energies into domestic growth to give our export sectors a boost there will be implications of this that we might not have bargained for. Do we really want an extra 1 billion or more people to be as rich as us? It is a case of being careful what you wish for …

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Thirsty and hot Koala …

Things are going crazy with the climate these days and certain animals are coming up with new coping strategies. I was sent some photos yesterday about a Koala that got hot and thirsty in South Australia during its current record heat wave.

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