The issue of climate change is on everyone’s mind. Constantly we are told to turn off light switches, use our cars less and to buy environmentally friendly products as a way to reduce emissions. But will this be enough to fix the problems and what are the Greens and Labor Party saying about the issue?
The Labor Party promote ‘clean coal technology’ as a solution to climate change. This technology will take at least a decade to come on line. On ‘clean coal’ even a former CEO of BHP Billiton said “it’s as big as the issue of nuclear waste. What are you going to do with the millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that is not nearly as compact as nuclear waste?” The $500 million the ALP has pledged should instead be allocated to existing developed renewable technologies.
Current coal fired power stations are the dirtiest source of energy, producing about 50% of Australia’s carbon emissions. As a result Australia emits the highest amount of greenhouse gas per capita in the world. A red-faced Peter Garrett has also had to try and justify the ALP position of supporting the Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania, which will see an increase in de-forestation, a major greenhouse contributor. The ALP have failed to produce any coherent plans to reduce emissions. This is because they are in bed with the big business polluters just as the Coalition are.
The Greens propose carbon trading for the energy sector and carbon taxes for the transport sector. Both offer no solution to climate change. Carbon emission trading is based on market mechanisms, and is already delivering massive profits to some, but it doesn’t reduce the quantum of greenhouse emissions. Carbon taxes, such as the tax on fuel on all cars and trucks, would mean massive extra costs for ordinary working people.
These pro-market measures are based on ‘buying the right to pollute’. Big business polluters and rich individuals are able to buy the right to degrade our environment. This is nowhere near as effective as cutting emissions. The obvious need is to stop the problem at the source.
While we have seen a focus from the capitalist parties to blame ordinary consumers for environmental problems, the reality is consumers do not control the resources. A few hundred multinational corporations control the bulk of the world’s resources and make the most important decisions about what products will be produced and how. It is these corporations that are the main source of environmental damage.
The Socialist Party supports the need for all of us to change our individual behaviour as a contribution to a more sustainable life style. However this will never be enough. Even if every Australian totally eliminated their residential emissions it would not result in significant cuts in emissions. The changes we make at the personal level would account for at best 20% of the change required.
The Greens proposal to make public transport GST free, will barely scratch the surface, and will be no guarantee for increased services or affordable fares. As is stands, our transport systems are run by heavily subsidised, billion-dollar multinationals. To seriously stop global warming by massively reducing car use and increasing usage of public transport, the transport system needs to be highly accessible, fast, and run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It should also be free at the point of use.
This would be economically attractive to the majority of people given the cost of purchasing a car, petrol, insurance, and repairs. Transportation accounts for up to 20% of working families incomes, second only to housing. A high quality public transport system would not only be green, but it would also mean an increase in people’s living standards. This is why we believe, that we need to take back into public ownership the transport and energy industries under workers control and management.
In order to tackle climate change we need to challenge the profit-driven big business polluters. Ultimately this system, based on the blind forces of the market, can never solve the crisis facing our environment. This is why the pro-market strategies of Labor and the Greens have failed us, and will continue to fail us. We need to start to adopt socialist solutions to solve environmental problems and act now.
By Socialist Party reporters