New figures have emerged showing that the carbon tax pushed by Labor and the Greens is set to be a major boost to Australia’s big polluters. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, brown coal electricity generators are estimated to be between $400 million and $1 billion better off than if the tax had never been implemented.
These figures only add to the information already at hand which shows that the tax will do next to nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In many ways the policy is actually a backwards step in the fight against climate change.
Painted as a ‘vital first step’ by the Greens, the tax is meant to place a price on emissions for the largest 294 polluting companies and local councils. They claim that placing a price on emissions will encourage investment into renewable energy.
If this was true we would have seen the imminent closure of the most polluting power stations. Unfortunately the big energy companies have announced that they will continue to burn brown coal for many years to come.
Far from discouraging investment in coal the government has handed over $1 billion in taxpayer funded compensation to some of the biggest polluters. A further $4.5 billion is still to come.
On top of the compensation the energy companies are claiming that the power stations are now worth much more than first thought. This they say makes them more profitable to keep open than to shut down.
As for the carbon tax itself, much of the cost will be passed on to ordinary consumers. The final report of the government commissioned 2011 Climate Change Review stated: “In the long run, households will pay almost the entire carbon price as businesses pass carbon costs through to the users of their products… ”
To make matters worse, in Victoria the Baillieu Liberal government is pumping a further $45 million of taxpayer’s money into a campaign to promote and expand brown coal in the state.
The money will be used to develop the brown coal export industry and push research into phantom “clean coal” technologies. The expansion of brown coal in Victoria will be devastating for the environment.
Both the carbon tax and the campaign for brown coal in Victoria show that none of the major parties have any genuine solutions to tackle climate change. This is because they all support the system of capitalism which prioritises corporate profits before people and the environment.
Rather than supporting a system where a tiny minority make profits from energy production, the industry should be under public ownership and democratic control. That way we could plan for the phasing out of coal and the transition to renewable technology while protecting jobs and communities in the areas where power stations currently exist.
These socialist solutions are the only way to tackle the climate crisis.
By Corey Snoek