Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Labor’s CPRS back flip

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In 2007 the Labor Party was swept to power on a wave of enthusiasm. This enthusiasm was in part based on their promise to take radical action on global warming – a promise that has gone unfulfilled.

The Rudd/Gillard government announced the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) with grand statements of leading the world. Rudd labelled climate change “the great moral and economic challenge of our time”, comparing sceptics to gamblers who “happily play with our children’s future”. However, in what has been called the “great moral back flip of our time” Rudd scrapped the introduction of the CPRS until at least 2013.

As socialists, we opposed the introduction of the CPRS on the basis that it would not reduce carbon emissions. At the same time it would have put a heavy cost on working people. This would be through massive handouts to the worst polluters – a boost to profits paid for by taxpayers – and increases in prices as companies simply passed on any costs to ordinary people. We also point out that the reduction targets of 5% – 15% are a pittance compared to the deep cuts in emissions that are required.

Market measures such as tradeable permits, offsets, and carbon taxes do nothing to actually reduce emissions. Under these schemes it is cheaper to buy the right to pollute than to invest in new green technology, therefore companies continue to do so. In this way these market ‘solutions’ lock in old technology and do absolutely nothing to encourage investment in low-emission alternatives.

Many people had illusions that Rudd was committed to real action on climate change. But the facts are that Labor have done absolutely nothing to address the issue. The shelving of the CPRS, a flawed and inadequate scheme in itself, has shattered many of these illusions and was a major factor which led to Rudd being ousted as PM.

It is not surprising that there was a drop in support for Rudd. In the lead up to Copenhagen he accused the opposition of “absolute political cowardice” for their refusal to pass the CPRS legislation. He basically adopted the Liberals position of ‘wait and see’, the exact policy he was just a few months ago labelling cowardly.

What is required is a socialist alternative to market measures. Neither Rudd and Gillard’s CPRS nor the Greens proposed carbon tax are adequate solutions. A real solution would include direct long term investment in renewable technologies and the phasing out of fossil fuel power stations. Nuclear power would not be required.

With a focus on public transport, and other low energy forms of transport, fewer emissions would be emitted overall. With a sustainable plan for food production high quality and affordable food could also be provided to all.

Not only would this reduce emissions but it would create thousands of jobs. The skills and knowledge of workers in polluting industries could be utilised in the transfer from fossil fuels to renewable technologies, with no job losses. The closures of car manufacturing plants could end as factories are re-tooled to build low-emission technologies such as wind turbines or solar panels.

To achieve this will require an environmental plan that can only be achieved with the nationalisation of the polluting industries under democratic workers control and management. You can’t control what you don’t own. This is why socialist ideas are central to addressing global warming.

By David Suter


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