Dear Australia: Good Job, But You Can Do Better

Dear Australia: Good Job, But You Can Do Better

Yesterday, with absolutely no trace of irony, the original climate-change-denying, money-hungry upper-classers known as the Australian Government announced a review into their climate policy, this time with some thoughtful consideration.

This is a massive win for the environment, particularly as the Liberal Party has never shown a direct interest in it.

After joining the Paris Agreement, Australia announced a target emissions reduction of 26% to 28% by 2030. Which is awesome, but it begs the question: at whose cost?

The concept of a Carbon Tax has had a tumultuous history in Australia. Originally pitched and implemented under the Gillard Labour Government in 2011, it was an attempt to penalise the big boys in business for their pollution contributions. But rather than being accepted as an effective means of combatting carbon emissions, the tax was met with hostility and ended up being a major part of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s downfall (not helped by the fact she was also a woman, but that’s a whole other story). Not long after Gillard was ousted, the Carbon Tax was abolished by her successor, Tony Abbott.

What was great about the Carbon Tax was that it was everybody’s responsibility, an embodiment of the kinship Australia likes to pride itself on. In a Robin Hood manner, a bit more was expected of big businesses, but this idea of the wealthier paying more was not met with an Aussie sense of fairness. Instead, there was backlash from all. Keyboard warriors reigned supreme, voicing their opinion of the “carbun” tax as a political mistake, and everyone seemed to miss the point that, based on the Fixed Price ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme), if you want to pay less, use less.

The Carbon Tax was never really given much of a chance. In a nation where money speaks loudest, large-scale business who were equally large-scale polluters fought tooth and nail to see it abolished, despite environmentalists urging against it.

As per yesterday’s announcements, what is now being suggested is an Emissions Intensity Scheme, which can best be surmised as carbon price for power companies. If the change goes ahead, it will replace the current Direct Action plan implemented by Tony Abbott, which offers large-scale pollution contributors incentives rather than taxation, and – problematically – does not enforce penalisation.

As a youth concerned with sustainability, when Australia makes a progressive move in protecting the environment, my interest is piqued. So to see that money has been put on the potential backburner with the environment comfortably in the front seat is a great feeling.

But though the suggested review is quite the step up, the issue with the proposed scheme is that, unlike the Carbon Tax, which covered the entire economy, only portions of polluters will be held accountable for their carbon consumption.

“We reject an economy-wide approach,” Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told the ABC yesterday.

“What this review has indicated is we will look at a sector-by-sector approach. The electricity sector is the one which produces the most emissions — around a third of Australia’s emissions come from that sector.”

This shows that big businesses continue to have the loudest voices in our nation, which – in a land where we depend so highly on the environment – is appalling, as it indicates that much-needed policy is still being overshadowed by greed.

So in short, well done Australia. All things considered, it’s commendable some effort has been made by the government to include the environment we depend on so heavily in its policy. Realistically though, it’s a good-job-but-you-can-do-better type situation.

I’ll be clapping with one hand for you on this one.

Cover by Luca Bravo