Ideas for a Low Carbon Economy: Australia Hit with Ten of the Best

Ideas for a Low Carbon Economy: Australia Hit with Ten of the Best

Australia never managed to get its emissions trading scheme (or CPRS) off the ground, even though our smaller trans-Tasman neighbour New Zealand did. Now both major parties in Australia are being attacked for a lack of strong (or any!) policies on climate change, it would seem alternative ideas are needed. So Graham Readfearn for ABC Environment has scanned the globe for climate policies and come up with ten of the best.

Graham Readfearn on ABC Environment (9 AUG 2010):

Some might say the government and the opposition are lacking for ideas on climate change policy. ABC Environment has 10 good ones they could consider.

THE GOVERNMENT’S proposed emissions trading scheme never quite got off the ground. And with both major parties being attacked for a lack of strong policies on climate change, it would seem alternative ideas were thin on the ground in the party rooms. However, ABC Environment has scanned the globe for climate policies the next Australian Government could steal. Ten of the best are here:

1. Carbon tax – Canada

A carbon tax has been proposed by both Ross Garnaut and the Greens as an interim measure while the details of a trading scheme are nutted out. In 2008 the Canadian province of British Columbia introduced a carbon tax on the burning of fossil fuels which currently stands at $21 per tonne of greenhouse gases but will rise to $32 by 2012. So far, the BC government has collected $906 million, but the tax is revenue neutral. This means all the money collected gets returned to citizens in cuts to other taxes. Although the tax only relates to emissions from burning fossil fuels, the BC Government says it accounts for 77 per cent of the state’s overall greenhouse gas footprint.

2. Climate levy – UK

A similar idea from the UK is their Climate Levy. Four years before the UK joined the rest of Europe in the world’s first emissions trading scheme, the government introduced its Climate Change Levy. The scheme is a business tax on all energy used including natural gas, electricity, petrol and coal. The current charge for electricity use is just less than one cent per kilowatt-hour. Electricity from renewable sources is exempt. Many industries have negotiated discounts to the tax, but these depend on those sectors reaching efficiency targets.

3. Coal tax – India

Why tax everything, when you could just tax the main offender? The Indian government has taken the literal step of taxing burning coal to pay for cleaner ways to generate energy. The Indian Government’s Clean Energy Cess (another word for tax) came into force in July 2010 and places a levy of about $1.20 per tonne on the country’s coal production, estimated to be 570 million tonnes for this current tax year. The revenue will be used to install 20,000 MW of solar power generation by 2022. By comparison, the Australian Government’s Solar Flagships Program will install 1,000 MW of solar power generation.

4. Electric cars – China, USA, UK

Never mind cash for clunkers, how about cash for a shiny new electric car? Late last month, the UK Government announced it would give an $8,700 rebate towards the cost of buying an ultra-low emission car. The US Government already offers a credit of up to $8,300 on the cost of an electric car. In June, the Chinese Government announced a pilot policy in five cities to provide a $9,800 subsidy to anyone buying an electric car. One of the cities included is Shanghai which has a population of close to 20 million with 8.5 million private cars. About seven per cent of Australia’s total carbon footprint comes from passenger road transport.

5. Cleaner cars – France

France’s national bonus-malus policy on new vehicle purchases avoids new-fangled electric cars, and instead encourages the uptake of more fuel-efficient cars. Introduced in late 2007, anyone buying a new vehicle that emits 130 grams of CO2/km or less gets a Government bonus payment. The amount you get ranges from $290 to $7,300 depending on how efficient the vehicle is. Penalty fees kick in for new vehicles which emit 161g of CO2/km or more, starting at $290. For people buying vehicles that emit more than 250g CO2/km, their penalty is $4,000. If Australia had the French scheme, for example, Toyota Prius buyers would get a $1,447 bonus but Holden Commodore customers would be penalised $2,315. In the first year of bonus-malus, sales of greener cars went up by 45 per cent while sales of cars emitting more CO2 dropped by 42 per cent.

6. Green roofs – Canada

From February this year in Toronto, at least 20 per cent of the roofs of most new residential, institutional or commercial buildings must be covered in greenery. The new green roof bylaw came after a report to city planners concluded that if all the city’s available roof space was “greened” the annual financial benefits could be as high as $40 million. Advantages included lower energy consumption, lower urban temperatures, better air quality and big savings on managing storm-water run-off. Australian Federal politicians in Parliament House should be used to the idea as they sit beneath a green roof every day.

7. White roofs – US

So we know about green roofs, but what about white roofs? The US energy secretary Steven Chu has just announced all new or replacement roofs of his department must be lighter and more reflective. Lighter roofs keep buildings cooler, reduce the “urban heat island” effect, cut energy consumption and also radiate less energy into the atmosphere than dark roofs. A recent study found lightening roofs and pavements in big cities in the northern hemisphere could give a one-off saving of 57 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, the world’s emissions were 28 billion tonnes.

8. Solar hot water – Spain

Australia has schemes to encourage people to heat their water from the sun, but in Spain (pdf) the government introduced a law requiring minimum amounts of solar hot water. The law, which originated in 2000 in the city of Barcelona, applies to all new and renovated roofs in medium and large buildings. Depending on conditions such as location or the amount of water needed, as much as 70 per cent of hot water must be heated with solar.

9. Feed-in tariff – Germany and others

Feed-in tariffs guarantee a price for renewable energy which is fed into the electricity grid, whether from domestic rooftops or even large scale generators. Australia has seven different state and territory feed-in tariffs but no unifying national tariff. There are 50 other countries that do have a national scheme, including South Africa, UK, Greece, Japan, Czech Republic, India, Kenya, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand and Ukraine. The most long-standing and successful scheme is Germany’s (pdf), which analysts say cut 57 million tonnes of emissions in 2008 compared to the eight million tonnes saved through Germany’s role in Europe’s emissions trading scheme.

10. Carbon points – Republic of Korea

Most people have heard of rewards programs where you can gain points when you buy products. In the Republic of Korea the Government has taken the rewards points idea to encourage people to buy climate friendlier products. Launched last year, its “carbon cashbag” scheme covers electrical items such as televisions, DVD players, heaters and air-conditioners. Buying energy efficient models attracts points which can be redeemed on public transport, utility charges or buying other appliances.

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