CPRS: Carbon Politics Renders Squat

The whole point of introducing an emissions trading scheme is to make sure that polluting industries phase out and are replaced with cleaner alternatives, renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes. [1]

While the Australian Federal opposition dithers on passing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) legislation which would enable carbon trading, Australia’s weather gets hotter and hotter.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Australian Climate Statement for 2009 noted last year was Australia’s second warmest year since high-quality records began in 1910 and the past decade was the warmest on record.

Mean Temperature Deciles 2009

In Australia, each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the preceding decade. In contrast, decadal temperature variations during the first few decades of Australia’s climate record do not display any specific trend. This suggests an apparent shift in Australia’s climate from one characterised by natural variability to one increasingly characterised by a trend to warmer temperatures.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stated 2009 was the globe’s fifth warmest year on record.

Increasing global mean temperatures derived from instrumental measurements are consistent with other independent indicators of climate change, such as reductions in sea-ice and snow cover, and record high global sea levels.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says this means the opposition is wrong about climate change, thus they should pass the CPRS legislation. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott disagrees,

The Bureau is entitled to say what is happening with the weather, but that does not mean an emissions trading scheme is the best way to combat climate change. My argument is against the Government’s great big new tax. If we are going to tackle climate change, let’s take direct action, let’s not raise the price of ordinary daily life. That’s why I think the Government is dead wrong on this. [2]

While I’m not aware what direct action Abbott has in mind (I doubt even he knows) the CPRS is dismal in its potential to actually reduce carbon emissions. Last year I blogged about Guy Pearse’s Quarry Vision in which he outlined the reasons the current Federal Labor government, like its predecessor, is enthralled by

the deep pockets of the Australian carbon lobby. [3]

In the spring issue of Dissent magazine David Spratt discussed the flaws in the CPRS, including the specifics of the proposed legislation and also broader strategy.

Both major political parties have bound themselves to the fossil fuel lobby and preserving a brown economy, so it is hard to imagine an effective carbon-pricing scheme that would close down the coal industry and provide the investment incentives to build a clean-energy economy being passed by parliament in the next period. [4]

Spratt wrote this before the leadership change of the Federal opposition caused by the legislation, but he was prescient in his views. While the politicians bicker, Spratt outlined approaches which could be effective in reducing carbon emissions:

  • A gross feed-in tariff for renewable energy produced at all scales
  • Mandatory renewable energy targets
  • Energy efficiency targets
  • Education and behavioural change programs

In California and Germany carbon emissions were reduced using such methods, without any recourse to carbon pricing or trading [4]. Spratt mentions two strategies which would be far more effective than the CPRS:

It’s the greatest challenge we have ever faced, and requires innovation, careful planning and coordination. [4]



  1. Hepburn, John (2008) “Emissions trading jobs” Rooted blog, 12 October
  2. ABC News (2010) Warmest decade proves Abbott ‘got it wrong’, 5 January
  3. Pearse, Guy (2009) “Quarry Vision: Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom” Quarterly Essay, no.32, p.37
  4. Spratt, David (2009) “Time for a Plan B on climate?” Dissent, no.30, p.34-39

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2 thoughts on “CPRS: Carbon Politics Renders Squat

  1. There might be global warming or cooling but the important issue is whether we, as a human race, can do anything about it.

    There are a host of porkies and not very much truth barraging us everyday so its difficult to know what to believe.

    I think I have simplified the issue in an entertaining way on my blog which includes some issues connected with climategate and “embarrassing” evidence.

    In the pipeline is an analysis of the economic effects of the proposed emission reductions. Watch this space or should I say Blog


    Please feel welcome to visit and leave a comment.



    PS The term “porky” is listed in the Australian Dictionary of Slang.( So I’m told.)

  2. Pingback: RIP, ETS « The Green Hat

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