The Coalition’s “green carbon” initiative
The Coalition has today committed to a sweeping climate change strategy that unlocks vast and currently untapped opportunities to abate Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The strategy would greatly broaden Australia’s response to climate change well beyond the Rudd Government’s narrow, costly and overly complex Emissions Trading Scheme. It would also deliver large gains in agricultural productivity, environmental quality and energy security.
“It is a plan that will create new jobs and new enterprises – without exporting our industries and emissions overseas,” said the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull.
“Our Green Carbon Initiative will ensure Australia is able to achieve greater reductions in carbon dioxide than those proposed by Mr Rudd, at relatively low cost and with enormous additional benefits to our own country’s environment and productivity,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We will aim to achieve additional annual reductions of at least 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020.”
Drawing on the advice of climate change experts from around the world, the plan focuses on three directions for abatement that have been virtually ignored by the Rudd Government:
”¢ A Green Carbon Initiative to offset greenhouse gases by capturing and storing large quantities of carbon in soil and vegetation – ‘biosequestration’
”¢ Measures to encourage improved energy efficiency in buildings, where 23% of all greenhouse gas emissions originate
”¢ Increased investment in new technologies to address climate change – particularly clean coal, which is vitally important to the Australian economy
The Green Carbon Initiative includes commitments to restore soil carbon through better land management; to invest heavily in the revegetation and reforestation of the Australian landscape; and to pursue sequestration of large quantities of carbon via biochar (the conversion of biomass into charcoal, which can be fixed in soil).
Measures to encourage energy efficiency in the built environment are one of the lowest-cost opportunities for abatement – and often pay for themselves. But there are many obstacles to them being realised. The Rudd Government has ignored this area, making the cost to Australian families of cutting greenhouse gas emissions higher than it should be.
More broadly, the Rudd Government, in its haste to implement its poorly designed ETS, has neglected all alternative paths to a low carbon economy. Biochar, improved land management and much revegetation activity are all excluded from the proposed ETS.
“An ETS is not an end in itself,” said Mr Turnbull. “It is only part of the solution, one tool in the climate policy tool box, and, in fact, no solution at all without new energy sources and new low emission technologies.”
The Coalition will respond to the Rudd Government’s proposed ETS at a subsequent date, after receiving its own economic modelling and reviewing the detailed legislation.