Australia backtracks on climate

In: Uncategorized

3 May 2010

Interesting that Australia should delay its commitment to introduce a cap and trade scheme for carbon emissions till 2013 or later. Until last week Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, had made much of his commitment to introduce such a scheme imminently.

The U-turn seems to be because there is growing concern about the likely cost of such a scheme and therefore opposition in the Senate. Rudd was caught by the dilemma that haunts many politicians: it is far easier to mouth pious words about climate change than to implement what are, in effect, expensive rationing schemes. It demands little effort to make commitments somewhere in the distant future but much harder to implement them in the present.

As Paul Kelly noted in the Australian on Rudd’s about turn:

“This contradiction has no logic in policy. Its only rationale is retail politics. It exploits the idea of climate change action as an endless moral project that never materialises into higher prices.”

The BBC version of the story includes a useful animated graphic on how cap and trade schemes work.

To the extent climate change is a problem it is necessary to have economic growth to help pay for the technology needed to tackle it. Schemes based on rationing are likely to prove unpopular and are unlikely to work in any case.