Although the “cap and trade” idea behind Rudd’s ETS scheme is a workable way to make progress on carbon emissions, the system that’s being put in place is less than ideal.
The basic idea is that the government sets a cap on the total pollution the country will emit. People or businesses who are able to significantly cut their emissions will then be able to sell their emission certificates to industries who can’t (or won’t). The law of supply and demand will determine the price of the certificates.
A trading scheme means that products and services that involve in high emissions will at least have a portion of those emissions incorporated into their final price, by way of the companies having to purchase emission certificates. So substitute products made more sustainably should then be more cost competitive, even if the low-pollution production process is a bit more expensive.
Incorporating cost of emissions into the companies’ balance sheets also gives more incentive for them to cut emissions. It’s often very hard to justify environmental improvements within large corporations, but it’s a lot easier to justify a cost reduction programme that seeks to reduce emissions and thereby save money on certificates.
The problem with Rudd’s ETS scheme is that the emissions savings targets have been set way too low – as little as 5% by 2020. So the emissions certificates will end up being priced very low (large supply, yet little demand since pollution won’t need to be reduced by much). They won’t really be much of an incentive to investors in green technology, and they aren’t going to effect the bottom line of the big polluters in any substantial way.
If you’d like to send a protest to Rudd, have a look at the Permit Me To Make A Difference campaign being run by GetUp. They’re also collecting donations to help fun a full-page ad in The Australian to make sure the message gets out there.
Here’s a sample email they’re encouraging people to send to their friends:
I’ve just found out that the Rudd Government’s new plans to reduce carbon emissions in fact insult the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in tackling climate change.
Instead under the current scheme, action you take at home to reduce energy – like changing to efficient light bulbs, or installing solar hot water – will not reduce Australia’s total emissions on top of the Government’s weak target of 5-15%, it will only make more room for industry to increase their emissions under that cap.
That’s outrageous, and unfair – but we still have an opportunity to fix this flaw.
Check out this advert for Friday’s edition of The Australian and sign your name to the petition here:
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the ETS!