Thursday, February 24, 2011

Climate Change Compromised

Compromise usually means that no one gets what they want, and the compromise is accepted by all because they realise that no one is completely happy, but everybody got something.

So it is with today's announcement that, from July 2012, there will be a fixed price on carbon (pollution), with an eventual move to an Emissions Trading Scheme in about 3 years. (2015) Business, especially big business, wanted, and lobbied both Coalition & Labor Governments for it. Then Labor PM Kevin Rudd acceded to this, and former Coalition Minister and then Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, supported it. The right wing of the Liberal Party shafted him, and installed Tony Abbott as Leader of the Opposition. Abbott promptly labelled climate change as 'crap', in direct opposition to Australia's Chief Scientist, and the CSIRO.

Last year's Federal election resulted in a hung Parliament, and Julia Gillard only became Australia's current Labor Prime Minister after gaining the support of Independent MP's. The result included a multi-party Committee on Climate Change. The Committee members are listed at Prime Minister Gillard Chairs the Committee. No Coalition members are listed, although the Coalition was invited to nominate 2 members of the Committee.

The compromise reached by the Committee is a fixed price on carbon for 3 years, then a transition to an ETS. All parties have compromised:
  • The Greens wanted an ETS, including on-farm activities.
  • Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor wanted an ETS, not including on-farm activities. They represent rural and regional voters.
  • Labor wanted an ETS, but different from that, and it had twice lost a vote in Parliament.
So, all parties wanted an ETS, except the Coalition which chose not to have members on the Committee. However, none could agree on the form of the ETS. Hence, a compromise, fixed-price on carbon, that shows they want to do something about climate change, but none have got what they really wanted. If it is introduced, I hope that imported goods are also subject to it, including the carbon-cost of transport to Australia. Otherwise, companies manufacturing in Australia will be further disadvantaged.

Politics is sometimes defined as 'the art of comprommise', but it seems to me that it often compromises good public policy.