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Coalition's emissions reduction fund poses more questions than answers

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Unveiled: Direct Action white paper

Cross bench support is crucial to pass the emissions reduction scheme, and the government is confident of its support. Nine News.

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From the subject of prime ministerial launches promising solutions for the moral challenge of a generation, to a lonely minister holding an afternoon press conference in the shadow of the nation’s most revered public holiday: climate change policy has fallen so far in Australia’s political life that the government gives a good impression of hoping we ignore it.

In this case, the low-key treatment probably makes sense.

Whatever the faults of the Labor-Greens-independents’ carbon price scheme, it is designed to play Australia’s part in a global push to cut carbon dioxide emissions out to the middle of the century.

The Coalition’s ‘‘direct action’’ policy, by contrast, looks like a solution to a different problem - something shorter term, of much less magnitude and inherently political.

Its goal is to help reach the emissions target of a 5 per cent cut by 2020, though no funding has been committed beyond the next four years and at least two analyses have found it is unlikely to be equipped to achieve it.

The emissions reduction fund white paper released on Thursday, four years after the policy was first announced, raises more questions than it answers.

It proposes to allow businesses to bid at a reverse auction to be paid by taxpayers to cut emissions. The lowest-cost bids would win a subsidy from the fund worth $2.55 billion over four years, with most of the cash available at the back end.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt promises a committee will be set up to ensure the proposals have integrity and the cuts are delivered. He expects the cuts to come from a list including making buildings and industrial sites more energy-efficient, reducing emissions from power plants, planting trees and storing carbon in soil.

But the policy does not require big industry to cut emissions. And the crucial question of how the government will make sure the cuts it buys are not undone by other businesses increasing emissions is deferred.

The white paper promises a ‘‘safeguard mechanism’’ that will ‘‘encourage’’ businesses to keep emissions at historic levels. But there are few details of how the safeguard will work – they will be thrashed out during consultation with business over the next year – and the government has decided only the biggest-emitting 130 companies will be covered.

It means those responsible for about half of Australia’s emissions will be able to pump out more without any risk of penalty. Even the 130 biggest emitters have little to fear: Mr Hunt stresses the government is not expecting to raise any revenue from the scheme.

There are some signs the government has listened to feedback. While it wants to sign contracts to cut emissions that last no longer than five years, it acknowledges advice that it would need to allow longer deals to make bigger cuts and says it will test the market for alternatives.

But the policy is in no way designed to deliver what the Climate Change Authority - headed by former Reserve Bank chief Bernie Fraser and including business leaders, economists, scientists and environmentalists - says is necessary for Australia to play its part given what other countries are doing: a 19 per cent cut by 2020 and a reduction of between 40 and 60 per cent by 2030.

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245 comments

  • I support the Direct Action Plan - it is Guinness Book of Records stuff. If my car emits smoke, it is apparently reasonable to expect the government to pay me to fix it.
    I like that - the idea has merit. It could bring a lot of tied up money into circulation.

    Commenter
    Adam
    Location
    Yarrawonga
    Date and time
    April 25, 2014, 7:09AM
    • Sorry, I spelled that wrong. It should have been 'gubermint'.

      Commenter
      adam
      Location
      yarrawonga
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 7:27AM
    • adam

      do you want the gubermint to give you money to fix your car? did Joe not advise us that the age of entitlement is over !.........

      Commenter
      Buffalo Bill
      Location
      Sydneys Northshore
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 8:32AM
    • ADAM

      How funny but unfortunately spot on.

      That's exactly what's happening. we pay the big miners to pollute. They also are the biggest LNP supporters with Gina parading six ministers around her for a party a few days after the LNP got into power to demonstrate to all of us how much influence she had over them.
      Now they push ridiculous policy and look like flat earther's to the rest of the world because of this association with the wealthy polluters.
      They are owned and therefore we are also.
      Thanks LNP for dipping into the average joe's taxes for the wealthy yet again!

      Commenter
      Mark
      Location
      oz
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 8:45AM
    • This the worst Government ever. How do they even think the fighter jets are world class when a simple search online shows what type is world class? How does this Government not battle climate change? Just a quick read of overseas websites shows how active Governments are and the scientific activities they are doing to combat it. This is a one term Tony.

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 8:47AM
    • @adam I am liking your comments over the last few days, keep it up. the more we can silence the trolls keeping them off the first post the better for humanity.

      in terms of direct action though i think this is policy gold as well. just like I have a giggle whenever i hear the phrase cash for clunkers, direct action will be the whipping term of the liberal muppets for years to come

      Commenter
      harry
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 8:54AM
    • Obviously the age of entitlement is certainly not over if you're an energy guzzling, high polluting, profit raking private mega corporation - it's just over if you're one of the unemployed trapped in the Newstart poverty abyss aka lazy good for nothing dole bludgers; whose carbon footprint is by definition that much lower than everyone else's. Forget the rhetoric of this government, their logic speaks volumes about what they really believe in - ever more for the wealthy, ever less for the poor until we turn into a sad pastiche of the USA and the environment can go to hell until we get there. Long live capitalism!

      Commenter
      Daniel
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 8:56AM
    • Kay, kay, kay ...... that's political babble backwards. Sounds different but the message is still the same. I watched this last night on the ABC and it was a rousing call for inaction by Sir Tones nervous and unconvincing mouthpiece. This is like playing football without the ball, singing without music and in the case of the Government, policy without substance. Direct INACTION as a policy - incredulous, but it does show how much this fraudulent government is controlled and manipulated by unelected interest such as the mining lobby. The mining industry does not represent the will of the people. The mining industry does not speak for me.

      Commenter
      Neil (not on radio) Mitchell
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 8:58AM
    • Actually, its a superbly engineered way to hand out money to people that donate money to the LNP.

      Just donate $1m, fill out a form, and the Govt will give you $2m in return. All you need do is fill out a form stating that your attempted emission reduction was unsuccessful, and the gub-whatever will send a cheque.

      The more unsuccessful your attempt, the more money you get. In fact, you don't need to try. Just fill out a form saying you tried "very hard". If you are spectacularly unsuccessful, the Gub-mint will give you $500m, no questions asked.

      It is the perfect way to raise donations for the LNP. But you need to donate the $1m first. Bear that in mind if you want $3m to fix your car exhaust.

      Donations should be forwarded to Mr Sinodinos. No, wait, who's taking the money for the LNP now?

      Commenter
      Axis
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 9:14AM
    • I think that - in all fairness - smokers should be entitled to receive free cigarettes. It'll help them quit. Same logic.

      Commenter
      Mary Johnson
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 9:23AM

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