Friday, July 11

McKibbin’s carbon solution a politically realistic one

My letter as per below appeared in AFR today :

In “Palmer move shows that creditable climate policy is possible” (AFR, July 7) Warwick McKibbin concludes the climate policy debate in Australia has hit the Palmer pivot; he argues in favour of a viable emissions trading scheme commencing with an initial zero carbon cost, achievable by ensuring an excess of permits over allocations.

His proposal makes provision for a long-term aspirational target for remission abatement but retains the flexibility in the midterm by exercising control over the issue of a pool of yearly permits for trading within Australia, with a carbon price set over a fixed period by a central agency, similar to how the RBA sets interest rates.

Most economists are against Tony Abbott’s Direct Action climate change policy, with a Fairfax Media survey citing 32 of 35 prominent economists in support of carbon pricing, concluding international evidence overwhelmingly showed carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced much more efficiently by the operation of a broad-based market mechanism such as a trading scheme.  Of course the experience overseas of emission trading schemes has been beset with problems, including fraud, but McKibbin’s flexible model restricted to Australia avoids these pitfalls.

McKibbin’s proposal warrants serious consideration by senators as it meets mostly the objectives of all the parties and is in the nation’s best interest, but also satisfies the Coalition objective not to put a price on carbon in the short term.


susan said...

Sometimes I get the feeling that talk continues about carbon trading even as the barn burns in the background. Yes, some reasonable plan does need to be put into effect everywhere, but as carbon is phased out more focus needs to be placed on renewables. You probably saw this Guardian article a few days ago, but just in case.. As you mentioned on my blog we need more action in these areas and it has proven to be successful. Now if only the methane clathrates decide to stay underwater we might have a chance.

btw: I do like your new template design.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for the reference to the Guardian article which I had not read. Australia did have a 20% target for renewables by 2020, which looked as if it was going to be easily exceeded, until the move by the Abbott government to rescind this previously mandated requirement.
Abbott, under mounting public pressure, has appointed an avowed climate sceptic to chair an investigation into the possible effects of this mandated target and report on job losses.
But the Climate Institute’s survey found more than 70 per cent of respondents supported a target of 20 per cent or more. I think the move by Abbott may be defeated in the senate.

But the problem remains, as you mentioned in your post, is that of a base load capacity and the inability of storage technologies to cope with large fluctuations, especially in a very large land mass country like Australia. To provide any meaningful capacity would require a huge investment to hook up wind, wave and solar energy into grids, so you are going to need a dual system for some time. That is the case even in smaller land mass countries, until such time as they effectively link into a grid. In Scotland for instance, which will soon produce up to 50% of energy from renewables, on a good wind day, has to shut down the wind turbines because supply vastly exceeds demand. When that happens they are obliged to pay the wind companies for the time the turbines are shut down- it cost 32 million last year and will escalate markedly this year as new investments come on stream. What they need to do is to hook up between the north and south,
But a well-designed emissions trading system with a price on carbon will hasten the investment in that technology to improve battery and infrastructure for it to be a reality much sooner. There is particularly relevant to help countries like china and India, to accelerate their move for cleaner energy.
The ABS –Australian Bureau of Statistics states the solar generation output rising by 58% to 2,700 gigawatt hours (GWh), which is equal to about 1.3 % of electricity consumption, with the biggest increase in QLD. But it still only represents a very small contribution, so that a few very sunny days in QLD, with subsidised power from solar panels coming on to the grid might give you cause for more optimism than is deserved.
Best wishes.