Report from a Carbon Front Line: Australia

carbon emissions australiaI am writing to you from a city which has been certified ‘carbon neutral’ as part of its undertaking to become one of the world’s most sustainable cities: Melbourne. At the same time, this is a country which measured per capita is the developed world’s largest carbon polluter – with every citizen responsible for around 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is more than four times the world average.

There are now over a million houses with solar panels on the roof in this country. There is a strong environmental movement of numerous NGOs and institutes, activists, campaigners and city council officers all advocating for an energy transition towards renewables. And the government has implemented a carbon tax, which they claim has done wonders in reducing emissions, and which certainly in a global perspective is far more efficient than for instance the European carbon trading system, which the EU parliamentarians recently dealt a deathblow to.

But even so, everyone here except the government seems to think the carbon tax has been pretty useless so far, and mind you, this is the same government which hands out 10 billion Australian dollars every year in subsidies to fossil fuel companies. Currently, there is a petition running against that.

Australia is the globe’s biggest coal exporter, and ‘mega-mine’ plans in Queensland for more extraction are identified as the world’s second biggest ‘carbon bomb’ threatening runaway global warming, wrote two Australian professors in an article recently.

Climate science: ‘crap!’
Elections are due in September in Australia, and the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, who recent polls say is likely to take over government, is known as a complete ‘climate denier’ who dismisses climate change science as ‘crap’. He basically believes climate change is a hoax and promises to repeal the carbon tax system as soon as he is in seat. He has also promised to repeal a tax on mining activities.

Australian mainstream media gives full exposure and microphones to the ‘climate sceptics’, the protesters against wind farms and carbon tax, and those who say climate change is a scam. Many Australians actually have the possibility to get electricity powered by 100 percent renewables in their households, but they tend not to choose to because it costs a few cents extra per kilowatt-hour.

The Australian private sector appears to give very little consideration to the impacts of climate change. “Climate leaves corporate Australia snoozing,” an article from Climate News Network states it outright. And according to a report from April 2013, Australian companies are allegedly, quote: “paralysed by short-term profit-first thinking”.

So this is Australia. A land of sharp carbon policy contrasts among a people divided by strong opposite opinions. The issue of climate change is likely to become a key issue in the public debate leading up to the federal elections.

More information

• Sydney Morning Herald – 10 May 2013:
Liberal Party discontent grows
Tony Abbott is facing growing discontent among his colleagues about his $3.2 billion Direct Action plan to combat climate change, a policy once described by Malcolm Turnbull as rubbish. By Jonathan Swan

• Moyers & Company – 19 April 2013:
Interview with Sandra Steingraber (video)
“It is time now to play the Save the World Symphony. I don’t know what instrument you hold but you need to play it as best you can and find your place in the score. You don’t have to play solo here, but this is our task now.”

Report by National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility – April 2013:
‘Climate change adaptation in the boardroom’ (PDF)

• The Conversation – 18 April 2011:
Making hard decisions: it’s time to prepare for climate change
Change is happening, but who’s responsible for getting us ready? Article by professor Rod Keenan and professor Darryn McEvoy

• The Guardian – 28 April 2013:
Carbon bubble makes Australia’s coal industry ripe ‘for financial implosion’
Much of the nation’s coal reserves will be worthless if world’s governments fulfil pledge to cap emissions, warns report. Article by Damian Carrington

Picture by Duncan Rawlinson, creative commons

One thought on “Report from a Carbon Front Line: Australia

  1. Pingback: Report from a Carbon Front Line: Save the planet from Australia | Sustainable Futures Blog

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