Talks between International Power and the Victorian State Government about the closure of Australia’s dirtiest power plant, Hazelwood, were abandoned recently. This is a sign that neither big business nor the major parties are serious about addressing climate change. If we are to avert the global warming catastrophe it is key that coal fired power plants such as Hazelwood are phased out rapidly.
Coal fired power plants are responsible for approximately half of Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions and generate nearly 90% of electricity in Australia. It’s clear that phasing out coal is a key task when it comes to tackling global warming.
The urgency of eliminating carbon emissions was further reinforced late in May when the Federal Government’s ‘Climate Change Panel’ released a new report. Amongst many alarming forecasts it said that large and vital parts of all major Australian cities will be under water this century if decisive action is not taken this decade.
Despite the dire need for immediate action, the Victorian State Government claims that it would be ‘too expensive’ to pay the private operators of Hazelwood to begin closing it down. They have also raised the spectre of higher electricity prices for consumers if Hazelwood was closed.
In comparison to the Liberals do nothing approach, Labor’s plan for a carbon tax and trading scheme can seem like a step in the right direction. But unfortunately both elements of the plan are totally incapable of reducing emissions and investing in renewable technology. In fact Labor’s plan only diverts attention away from real solutions.
The chief executive of Loy Yang Power, responsible for another one of Australia’s dirtiest power plants, said that under Labor’s scheme the Loy Yang power plant A could remain open until “at least” 2048. Loy Yang A is responsible for 18 million tonnes of emissions each year.
On top of the inability of Labor’s plan to address the problem, it would actually mean a rise in the cost of living for ordinary people as big polluters will pass the costs down the line. Any carbon trading scheme would in fact represent just another casino-style market for big polluters to speculate on.
The key point in the whole debate is that you can’t control what you don’t own. Neither the Labor Party nor the Liberals are prepared to step on the toes of the big polluting corporations because they are wedded to the profit system. The logic of capitalism forces them to defend an ultra-rich minority who own and control our vital infrastructure for their own profit.
The only way to really reduce emissions from coal is to bring the power plants into public ownership. If they were publicly owned and democratically controlled by workers and the community a plan could be put in place to phase them out. The mega profits of the energy corporations could be used to invest in large scale renewable energy to maintain and extend electricity generation capacity and to create new jobs for coal industry workers.
Under the unplanned system of capitalism where private companies compete against each other for profit, the climate crisis can’t be avoided. It is only under a socialist system of public ownership, democratic planning and workers control that the problem of climate change can be seriously addressed.
By Socialist Party reporters