OK, I had to admit I am getting confused. Up until yesterday, I thought that the Liberals had decided that they were not going to have an ETS or any form of carbon tax because, for many of them, they were unconvinced of the need to do anything with regard to climate change. Or at the very least, did not want to incur economic costs to do so.
But this morning I read this.
Mr Abbott greeted yesterday’s Senate vote by declaring it had saved Australia from “a great big, new tax” by rejecting the CPRS.
Pressed for an alternative, he said the Opposition remained committed to an unconditional target of reducing emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 but would not embrace an ETS or a carbon tax. He said there were “lots of things” that could be done to reduce emissions through other means, many not involving significant costs.
These included more energy-efficient buildings, better land management and biosequestration. NSW Nationals Senator John Williams claimed Australia could offset 100 per cent of its carbon emissions for 100 years by lifting soil carbon by 3 per cent.
Hang on a second? Every one of these seems like the most heavy-handed regulation imaginable. For from avoiding economic costs in climate change policy, these types of prescriptive actions are designed to maximise them. The reason why everyone else in the world has become convinced that the best way to deal with emissions is to price them is because the alternative, requiring people to emit less in very prescriptive ways, is likely to lead to grave inefficiencies. This includes biosequestration which, in the absence of a carbon price, will require a large scale publicly owned project. Not to mention the big compliance issue of measuring emissions reduction to conform with any international agreements that I thought were critical to the Coalition before doing anything.
So maybe I was wrong. Maybe they aren’t simply environment haters but market haters. Quite a combination.