Feeling the heat from opposition leader Tony Abbott’s scare campaign against the government’s planned carbon price, PM Julia Gillard told ABC radio’s AM on June 24 that she “never meant to mislead anybody during the last election campaign about carbon pricing”.
This was a reference to her promise — made days before the 2010 election — that a Labor government would not set up a carbon tax.
In her defence, Gillard said the proposal is not really a tax but a carbon trading scheme (also known as “cap and trade”) that begins with a fixed price.
She said: “I’ve always thought the best way of putting a price on carbon was a cap and trade scheme where you cap the amount of carbon pollution coming out of your economy and we’re going to get there …
“We are going to get there through a path I didn’t expect during the election campaign, of a fixed price period for around three to five years.
“Well, what I meant then and what I mean now is climate change is real. We’re up to tackling it. We’re a nation that can tackle the big reforms. The big reform we need to reduce carbon pollution is to put a price on carbon.”
But the real problem with the government’s carbon trading plan is not that Gillard misled the public in the past — it’s that she is still misleading the public now.
The government’s carbon trading scheme will not cut emissions fast. In Europe, carbon trading is delaying a transition to renewable energy and is helping the biggest polluters make bigger profits.
As will happen under Gillard’s proposed plan, a huge number of pollution permits have been handed out for free under the European scheme.
Ten European cement, iron and steel companies were given surplus permits worth €4.1 billion between 2008 and 2010. This is about four times more than Europe’s entire environmental budget for the same period, says British climate research group Sandbag.
Green Left Weekly has long campaigned for the real solutions to the climate change emergency. Most of all, we need a huge program of public works to replace polluting industries with clean ones.
But we have also warned against relying on market mechanisms that allow big polluters to derail the transition to a zero-carbon future.
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