The federal Labor government wants to introduce its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), otherwise known as the emissions trading scheme, in July 2011.
The scheme would impose a "cap and trade" policy on Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. The "cap" refers to a target of a 5-25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
The "trade" refers to carbon-emission permits — 95% of which would be given free to large greenhouse gas-emitting companies — that could be bought and sold between companies.
After widespread criticism, the government amended its emissions reduction target range in early May to include a (largely hypothetical) maximum target. This was an attempt to appease the environmental movement, but the target is still far too low.
It ignores the target set in 2007 by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of at least a 25-40% cut in emissions by 2020. Based on more recent science, Australia's Climate Action Summit in January called for cuts of at least 60% by 2020 if further climate destruction is to be prevented.
Under the CPRS, Australia's dirtiest industries would be given carbon pollution permits as property rights, allowing them to keep their historically high levels of emissions.
Environment Victoria has calculated that in the first year of the scheme, polluters would have to pay only 50 cents for every tonne of pollution, and it is likely most of this cost would to be passed on to consumers.
Furthermore, the scheme would not compensate the large voluntary contribution made by individual households becoming more sustainable. It would also allow big polluters in Australia to buy carbon emission permits from overseas, thereby negating any real cut in national emissions.
The CPRS therefore could not guarantee that even one tonne of greenhouse gases would be cut by 2020!
Furthermore, the scheme proposes that it would be more profitable to set up tree plantations as carbon sinks, which would actually increase the demand for native forest logging.
Such environmentally destructive strategies would not lead to an influx of green jobs, but would maintain unsustainable brown jobs. The CPRS would lead to an economy dependent on carbon-emitting technologies and practices well past 2020.