Australia is a word leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution

The pro-coal, pro-gas Australian Government has proposed a Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy that means climate change inaction by Australia, a world-leading per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluters. Astonishingly, major climate activist groups have been seduced by neocon political spin and are supporting this disastrous policy that promotes a pointless coal burning to gas burning conversion, scuppers science-demanded 100% renewable energy by 2020, institutes a counterproductive carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) and ignores agriculture which is responsible for over 50% of GHG pollution.

Australia is a word leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. Thus “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tones CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included). However as briefly outlined below, climate criminal Australia is hell bent on burning and exporting fossil fuels until the World makes it stop.

The scientific world has appreciated the problem of man-made climate change for over 20 years. Indeed that was why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. However global GHG pollution has remorselessly increased, unperturbed by four successive IPCC Assessment Reports. International concerns were formalized in 1997 with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol but Australia refused to sign. After a dozen years of Australian inaction on climate change under the conservative Howard Liberal-National Party Coalition Government, in 2007 the Rudd Labor Government was elected with a big majority, in part on the promise to “tackle climate change” which PM Kevin Rudd famously described as “the greatest moral challenge of our time”.

However it was not to be. Rudd signed up to Kyoto but then delayed any action for about a year by getting Professor Ross Garnaut, an economist, to investigate man-made climate change. Rudd acted upon the highly flawed Garnaut Report by proposing a Carbon Trading Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that was called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), Unfortunately Labor promised only a derisory 5% off 2000 level of Domestic GHG pollution by 2020 and ignored Australia’s huge GHG Exports in the form of huge liquid natural gas (LNG) exports and world-leading coal exports. Indeed Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme actually meant an increase of Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2020 to 131% of the 2000 value. The CPRS was opposed by the Greens for not being tough enough and by the significantly climate skeptic Coalition Opposition for being too tough. A compromise deal between Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull and Labor PM Kevin Rudd completely and permanently excluded agriculture i.e. excluded over 50% of the GHG problem forever. However the well-intentioned Malcolm Turnbull was subsequently replaced as leader by formerly and still functionally climate skeptic ultraconservative Tony Abbott.

In a huge back-flip, 2010 PM Kevin Rudd decided to put climate change action on hold for several more years and his popularity greatly declined because of this and because of a huge Mining Superprofits Tax that was opposed by the Mining Industry in a successful $22 million media campaign. This campaign established how much its costs to remove a PM in Murdochracy and Lobbyocracy Australia because in mid-2010 Rudd was removed in a 24 hour pro-Zionist-led Coup and replaced as PM by an even more pro-war and pro-Zionist Julia Gillard who immediately reduced the offending Mining Tax. One of pro-coal, pro-gas PM Gillard’s first acts was also to approve the export of dried brown coal from the state of Victoria.

This decision was predicted to increase Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2020 to about 149% of that in 2000. In the federal election some months later, PM Gillard promised that there would be no Carbon Tax under a Gillard Labor Government. The election almost led to a hung Parliament but Gillard Labor survived with the help of 1 Green MP, a quasi-Green Independent MP and 3 conservative Independent MPs. In February 2011 PM Gillard rescinded her November 2010 election promise and announced a disastrous Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan from 2012 onwards that would introduce a probably low Carbon Price of circa $20/tonne carbon that would preclude renewable and merely enable a futile coal to gas transition. This would be followed in 2015 by an ETS that would almost certainly de disastrously ineffective. And the whole scheme ignored Agriculture which is responsible for over 50% of GHG pollution. The Greens (supporters of the Gillard Labor Minority Government) and various climate activist groups support the CTETSIA Plan but science-informed climate activists were dismayed by a scheme that would clearly entrench Australian climate change inaction.

A key group of science-informed climate activists is Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) that in mid-2010 released an important and much-acclaimed plan for 100% renewable energy for Australia by 2020 (Zero Carbon Australia, ZCA 2020; “Zero Carbon Australia stationary energy plan”, downloadable for free together with a Synopsis from the “BZE” site ). The BZE ZCA2020 Plan involves 40% wind energy, 60% concentrated solar thermal (CST) with molten salts energy storage for 24/7 baseload power, biomass and hydroelectric backup (for days of no wind and low sunshine) and a HV DC and HC AC national power grid. The BZE scheme cost at $370 billion over 10 years, with roughly half this on CST, one quarter on wind and one quarter on a national electricity grid.

It is notable that a previously published scheme by top electrical engineer Professor Peter Seligman involved wind, solar thermal, other energy sources, Hydrological Energy Storage (in dams on the Nullabor Plain in Southern Australian), an HV AC and HV DC grid and a cost over 20 years of $253 billion (see Peter Seligman’s book “Australian sustainable energy – by the numbers”, downloadable for free from the University of Melbourne Energy Institute site). Another conceivable variant would be 80% Wind with Hydrological Energy Storage and other energy for 24/7 operation noting that wind power installation is about 3-fold cheaper than solar thermal power installation. Thus ignoring economies of scale for a 2- to10-fold size increase and ignoring transmission and hydrological storage costs, here are 2 similar estimates for wind power for 80% of Australia’s projected 325,000 GWh of annual electrical energy by 2020 (ABARE data): (1) 90,000 MW capacity, 260,000 GWh/year, $200 billion/10 years (a 10-fold scale-up from GL Garrad Hassan projections) and (2) 96,000 MW, 260,000 GWh/year, $144 billion (a 2-fold scale-up of BZE’s Wind Power part of its ZCA2020 proposal).

Here are some astonishing quotes from the BZE Report of the Australian Government’s proposed Carbon Pricing: “There have been many calls from those in the climate change debate for “a rising price on carbon which is high enough to stimulate renewable energy”. This is a flawed strategy. Due to the nature of technology and the electricity market, we would require in excess of $70.tonne even for wind power, the lowest cost renewable, to compete in the electricity market without requiring Renewable Energy Certificates from the LRET, For baseload technologies such as concentrating solar thermal (CST), the game changer we need to replace coal and gas, you would need in excess of $200 /tone for initial plants… A low carbon price of $10-20/tonne is somewhat useful, as it will still create a disincentive to build new coal-fired power stations, and will ensure that coal is more likely to be displaced by renewable than gas. However, a carbon price which is greater than $25/tonne will ensure a mass rollout of gas-fired power stations, while renewable are left out in the cold… BZE’s recommendation on a carbon price is that calling for a high price will inevitably lead to a large switch to gas, with minimal benefits to renewable energy. The focus should be on making the case for a carbon-pricing plus framework that elevates “direct incentives” such as Feed-in-Tariffs in the debate. The carbon price alone is only a complementary measure. The carbon price “debate” has already been won; the next step is to call for policies that work, as opposed to policies that delay.”

Extraordinarily, BZE appears to be supporting in principle the outrageous pro-gas Gillard Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan. Labor’s CTETSIA Plan will scupper viable and crucial plans for 100% renewable energy for Australia by 2020 (e.g. as proposed by Beyond Zero Emissions Zero Carbon Australia plan) and will pointlessly replace coal burning with gas burning which is effectively as dirty as coal GHG-wise at current industrial methane leakage. Labor’s ETS approach is empirically unsuccessful, dangerously counterproductive and inherently fraudulent (Google for a compendium of over 40 expert science-informed opinions on this matter). Labor’s ignoring of Agricultural GHG ignores what is over 50% of the GHG problem.

Unfortunately BZE also ignores the huge Carbon Taxes we already have, specifically the $9-$12 billion pa Carbon Tax on taxpayers to promote fossil fuel burning (according to Dr Chris Riedy, UTS and the ACF) that amounts to a $53-$71 per tone carbon "negative Carbon Tax" applied to taxpayers and not to polluters. BZE also ignores the huge cost of the estimated 10,000 Australian deaths pa from pollutants from carbon burning – the minimum Carbon Price to cover carbon burning-derived deaths and carbon burning subsidies is $554-$572 per tone of carbon as compared to the best political offer yet of $20 per tone of carbon.

Major, well-funded climate activist groups including the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Australian World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Climate Institute went “soft” by supporting Rudd Labor’s appalling ETS proposal. Environment Victoria went “soft” by proposing substantial replacement of the coal-burning Hazelwood power station in Victoria with gas burning that would be almost just as bad in terms of GHG pollution. Now, in saying that a “price of $10-20/tonne” is “somewhat useful” and more of a disincentive for gas-fired power than ”greater than $25/tonne”, is BZE effectively saying (after the fashion of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel “1984”) that “more is less”. It appears that the otherwise admirable BZE has gone “soft” like the ACF, WWF, Climate Institute, Environment Victoria and other climate activists.

In short, Australian climate activists have apparently been seduced by a policy of “gradualism” that says that “something is better than nothing” and wanting to be part of what lying mainstream media says is the solution – except that in lending support to the pro-gas Gillard Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan they are supporting what can be seen from a science-informed perspective as a plan for climate change inaction and continued GHG pollution. Mainstream media bear much of the blame for this climate activist surrender by developing a dominant “narrative” that falsely claims that the Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) Plan is “tackling climate change” and that the significantly climate skeptic Coalition Opposition’s “Direct Action”, no Carbon Tax, no ETS policy is not. Labor is clearly not tackling climate change – indeed Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is higher under do-nothing pro-coal, pro-gas, neocon Labor Governments than under the previous do-nothing, pro-coal, pro-gas, neocon Coalition Governments.

Behind the endless neocon lies and spin is the reality that climate criminal Australia is going to continue burning and exporting fossil fuels until the World tells it to stop via sanctions, boycotts, green tariffs, litigation before the International Court of Justice and arraignment of climate criminals before the International Criminal Court.

All decent people who care for their children, their grandchildren, Humanity and the Biosphere must resolutely oppose the worsening global coal to gas transition and oppose all new coal- and gas-fired power plants, demand 100% renewable energy by 2020 (see: ), and urge return of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to a safe and sustainable 300 parts per million (ppm) from the current damaging and dangerous 392 ppm (see—return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm ). We are running out of time.

By Gideon Polya,