February 19, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

Let’s kill the Carbon Pollution Reinforcement Subsidy

Beware the policy that has no opponents in high places. During the US elections it was a reality check when the financial crisis came to a boil, and instantly both parties were in complete agreement about the need for a bail out. Much less being said about the redesign of the system to deter future foolishness.
Here, the outrageously badly designed CPRS, known to activists as the Carbon Pollution Reinforcement Subsidy, has equally wide support, with the help of the coal industry’s deep pockets.
Cracks are starting to appear, in the form of a Parliamentary Enquiry, but this won’t report until after the legislation is tabled, ironically around Earth Day in late March.
Disencentivising individuals and small business to consider different approaches to their energy and consumption habits, because their credits will just be bought up by the big polluters, is public policy insanity. Complexity is another hallmark of bad legislation, and the CPRS has that going for it, too.
These days the smart money (if that’s not an oxymoron, given the state of the money markets) is with a carbon tax. This could be as low as $25 a tonne, but should probably be higher to get the message across.
We need a strong disencentive to change our direction. We cannot continue to produce electricity from coal and export this most filthy of fossil fuels. Why? Because it is bad for us, our economy, and for Australia’s image in the world. Short term, maybe we can get away with it, but what do you really think lies around the corner?
People clearly differ in what they consider obvious, or there wouldn’t have been an article in the paper about the intelligence of paying more than the minimum off your credit card.
You know the world is starting to ‘get’ climate change when the latest James Bond movie makes the point that water is now more precious than oil. Our smart businesspeople don’t want the green boat to leave without them.
We need to be very clear on sending the right signals to other alternatives. These alternatives are not just for renewable energy, as that has clear limitations. The incentives for change have to be strong enough to reach into what some might call the ‘soft’ economy. This includes urban design, better small scale transport, and flexible arrangements such as community gardens, recycling centres and social learning databases.
Green entrepreneurs are turning a quid in California with projects that make you scratch your head, but somehow work. The desire for change is a deep well.
Such approaches may now be small bickies, but they offer the hope of building what the CPRS as currently framed will further erode: actions by civil society working together with small business and green entrepreneurs. Who has ever really counted the contributions of these groups? There is lots of research on volunteers, carers, and non-profits, but the collective impact of a change of consciousness?
All technologies and public policies have implications for the design of society, and dealing with climate change is a colossal challenge for democracy as we now know it.
Not for nothing does Al Gore call it a ‘crisis of governance’. There is a surge in the ALP to stregthen the embryonic Labor Environment Action Network; a Sydney friend is shaking the branches of that democratic tree. I’m hoping the first rotten fruit to fall is the CPRS.
fruit tree.jpg

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 9:02 am | Comments (8) |
Filed under: Environment


  1. Hey Ronda,
    Things like clever urban design, efficient and frequent small scale transport, and initiatives for community gardens and recycling centres are already happening in places like Norway, for example.
    In as much as the Norwegians understand the value of recycling and renewables, they have transfer stations inside almost every local supermarket that, once you unload your empty bottles etc, you’re issued with a docket to present at the cashier for a discount equivalent to your recycling deposit. Brilliant!
    All of this has been happening there (and probably in the other Scandinavian countries, too?) for many years and was still actively promoted during a recent visit. And it all works seamlessly, and it just makes sense.
    It seems to me that when it comes to installing such simple but important ideas here, there is zero political will or leadership from either side that will make these things happen? Rudd’s all about innovation and stopping the blame game, but there (still) doesn’t seem to be much detail or progress behind his grandoise ideas. I really wanted him to do something positive but he doesn’t seem to be doing much at all?
    All of which gives me the distinct impression that the CPRS is just another demonstration that government is in cahoots with big business but when questioned, pretends not to know what we’re talking about!?

    Comment by Davide Z — February 20, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  2. Yes, David, Australia really is a backwater in many ways.
    One of the things I do is constantly ask businesses abour low emissions and recycling options. Yesterday it was low emission kitchen cupboards.
    But community pressure for really simple things like max eco ratings on all new houses should be in place now.

    Comment by ronda jambe — February 21, 2009 @ 7:06 am

  3. Ronda
    How right you are. Those in high places have been regulating the regulator for decades.
    If you ponder the role of the Environmental Protection Authorities, where these agencies were established decades ago to protect our environment, one must ask why Australia remains the largest polluter per capita on the planet?
    Alas, these agencies, together with their sisters-in-sin (departments of environment) are the whores of industry. Senior bureaucrats in these agencies, in the event of an environmental catastrophe (which are numerous in Australia,) defend the perpetrator – those who continue to trash what remains of Australia’s ecology and biodiversity.
    There are many good ideas placed here on this thread, not least transport, where motor vehicles are the largest emitter of benzene and the second highest emitter of carbon monoxide (both oxidising to CO2) in Australia. Yet I see little inducement from governments here to encourage citizens to participate in shared car arrangements, public transport or less polluting vehicles.
    The “bad boys,” the United States already service 4.5 million homes with windpower. What a difference that would make in these arid lands.
    It appears that the CPRS will exempt agriculture from compliance until 2015. This may be understandable with grain growers, however, our continued dependency on growing cloven hooved animals for export and a gluttonous domestic consumption is seriously jeopardising the health of this nation.
    Agriculture Minister, Burke and Meat and Livestock Australia are busy on junkets overseas to coerce poorer nations into buying yet more of Australia’s meat.
    The UN FAO , Livestock’s Long Shadow –Environmental Issues and Options reported:
    “The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level,” it warns.
    “When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases.
    “It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.
    ”And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.”
    Meat and Livestock Australia boasts there are “82,036 beef cattle properties in Australia” and the DPI Queensland advises there are approximately 76,000 sheep and wool producers.
    As in the US, the current spend on medicated animal feeds alone is in the order of millions of dollars annually, the majority of which is spent on anti-infective and antibiotic agents and much of which in turn is directed towards growth promotion to artificially plump the beast for market.
    Livestock in Australia take up nearly 60% of Australia’s land mass. The desecration of Australia’s lands and waterways, from these alien animals is a scientific fact and well documented yet to no avail.
    An increased demand for livestock products will exacerbate our water scarcity. Fodder production is also a drain on water, depleting local supplies. Inadequate waste management also causes pollution that impacts water as is shown in a recent article:
    Yet the alternative “modern” method of incarcerating livestock in feedlots, where these beasts must stand in their own waste for a lifetime, has resulted in new, emerging zoonotic diseases which are impacting on human health:
    Alas, the foxes remain in charge of the hen houses and Mr Five Percent is happy in his work!

    Comment by Environmental Impact Statement — February 23, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

  4. Thanks for those up to date stats on the relation between livestock and our very high emissions.
    More strident letters to ministers, more spreading this information, and more eating of roo meat.
    If you really want a heads up, have a listen to the pod cast about the Climate Wars, part 2 also deals with the coming food shortages:

    Comment by ronda jambe — February 23, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  5. Rhonda,
    Here is a petition against the ETS:
    Over 1,000 signatures in just 36 hours and some insightful comments – but you probably don’t agree with many of them.

    Comment by Dennis Webb — February 24, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  6. Rhonda,
    Here is a petition against the ETS:
    Over 1,000 signatures in just 36 hours and some insightful comments – but you probably don’t agree with many of them.

    Comment by Dennis Webb — February 24, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  7. Well, Dennis, we can agree that the ETS is not good policy. But I couldn’t sign the petition when I read that it denies climate change is ocurring.
    The AEF is not taking on board a lot of empirical info. The IPCC and the media have perhaps not fulfilled their charters, but the evidence is very clear.
    I do agree with the AEF that Australia needs to prepare for changes and in particular, to feed ourselves.
    I wonder what position the AEF will take in 10 years?

    Comment by ronda jambe — February 25, 2009 @ 5:29 am

  8. Dennis Webb. Can you advise why viewers can only access a 100 signatures on the petition site you have provided? The administrator claims there are now 1314 signatures. Why are they not accessible to viewers?

    Comment by Curious — February 26, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

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