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Unbalanced

December 16th, 2008

In the leadup to the release of the White Paper, Kevin Rudd said he’d be aiming for balance, and predicted criticism from both sides

We’ll be attacked from the far right and by various business groups I suppose and certainly the Liberal Party for doing anything at all,” he said.

“We will be attacked by extreme green groups for not taking the most radical course of action.”

This kind of reasoning is often specious. For example, we see the Bush Administration being praised for finding a middle course between the extremists one side who want unlimited torture and those on the other side who want torture banned altogether. But let’s grant Rudd his premise this time.

You have to go a long way to the right to find anyone willing to say the government has done too much. As Tim Lambert points out, the Australian Newspaper, long the main outlet for those happy to reject science and trash the environment, is entirely satisfied.

The other side of Rudd’s prediction is satisfied only if you define “extreme green groups” to mean anyone who cares about the environment.

It’s pretty clear that the government has been willing to dump its own supporters in the hope of wedging Turnbull. This kind of thing is characteristic of the cynical centrism implicit in Rudd’s statement.

The Projectionist hd
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  1. Ian Gould
    December 18th, 2008 at 17:37 | #1

    To put a little more detail on what’s being proposed.

    2000 emissions were 551 Mt of CO2=e.

    A 5% reduction from that would take us to approximately 526 Mt.
    http://www.climatechange.gov.au/inventory/2005/trends.html

    Our 1990 emissions were 547 Mtonnes meaning our recently reaffirmed Kyoto target of 108% of 1992 levels equates to roughly 590 MT.

    So Rudd’s proposing a cut to roughly 4% below 1990 or a 12% cut from what was agreed at Kyoto by the Howard government.

    The most recent National greenhouse accounts – for 2006, show total emissions of 576 Mtonnes.

    So without allowing for any increase since 2006, the reduction being proposed is from 576 Mt to 526 Mt. That’s a 9.7% cut.

    http://www.climatechange.gov.au/inventory/2006/index.html

    The EU-15 is on track to cut emissions by 8% from 1990 by 2012. The largest part of that comes from the shut-down of East German industry.

    The EU has committed to cutting emissions to 80% of 1990 by 2020. So on top of their current commitment they’re committing to cut by roughly an additional 15%.

    http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/eu-15-on-target-for-kyoto-despite-mixed-performances

    A 15% reduction from 2000 levels would take Australia to 468 Mt.

    Relative to 2006 emissions that’s a reduction of roughly 18%.

    Relative to 1990 it’s a cut of roughly 15%.

    All I’m trying to do here is get a handle on the actual figures involved and sort out the various tears and levels bandied about.

  2. Ian Gould
    December 18th, 2008 at 17:42 | #2

    “I think we have to ask questions like could we afford to let go of the aluminium industry? They use 11% of Australia‚Äôs electrical output paying a fraction of what households pay per kilowatt hour. Even supposedly hydro powered smelters have gas or coal plants at the ready nearby.”

    If we “let go” of the aluminium industry will global output fall or simply relocate to other countries with worse environemntal records?

    If letting go results in higher aluminium prices and more use of heavier steel and copper components in cars and planes, will the resulting increase in fuel use wipe out any greenhouse benefits?

  3. December 18th, 2008 at 21:32 | #3

    From a game theoretical perspective Rudd’s two tier cutting strategy is correct. It makes policy sense for Rudd to put a lower bound of carbon emission cuts in the event of a global non-agreement.

    There is absolutely no point in AUS cutting our emissions if the big players – esp developing world IND & PRC – do not sign onto effective cuts. No point in excessively cutting our nose to spite the national face when the global face is turned the other way.

    The only problem with his lower bound is that it should have been lower: zero cuts (or even default growth) in emissions. A derisory lower bound sends the message that developing world non-agreement is effective failure.

    OTOH the upper bound cuts contingent on global agreement should have been higher. AUS’s upper bounds should be set at a level that would bring the developed worlds total emissions consistent with 450 ppm by 2020. Assuming the developing world signs on to commensurate constraints.

    Undoubtedly the political constraints of massive per capita cuts held his hand on upper bound cuts. Most of the new ALP voters in semi-rural and urban fringe electorates in NSW and QLD are not committed Greenies. THey are energy-cost sensitive due to the enormous amount of time they spend in the cars going to work or running home entertainment systems since it is too expensive to go out.

    Rudd’s biggest carbon policy crime is his massive immigration program. AUS’s carbon cuts could have been much higher still (through economic affordability and political preferability) if our projected immigration explosion was curtailed.

    Massive growth in AUS’s gross total of carbon emissions is being driven massive growth in AUSs population. SO it is logically necessary for AUS make much higher per capita cuts so that we come in under our total emission quota.

    I predicted this dilemma a few months ago on this blog and got rubbished for my trouble. But the immigration chicken will unerringly find its way home to roost, despite the panglosses of “environmental economists”. No names no pack drill.

    Immigration remains a suppressed viewpoint in the climate change debate. The elephant in the living room that makes a mockery of all our carefully calibrated calculations.

    Of course immigration is a taboo subject that is right off the table amongst civilized people. So I was a bad person to even mention it.

  4. Hermit
    December 19th, 2008 at 06:15 | #4

    Ian note that the Rudd govt is assisting increases in coal export capacity to 300 Mtpa. 300 X 2.4 = 720 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

    In conjunction with the new high immigration policy it seems we get other countries to do our dirty work then consume more and more of the products here.

  5. December 19th, 2008 at 08:49 | #5

    Has anyone given any thought to the proposition that financially intermediated Emission
    Trading Schemes might not be the best way to go in light of recent revelations regarding this class of institutional facility? I mean it’s not like we have no reason to suspect the activities of traders may occasionally me counter-productive.

    The USE’s version of ETS has been plagued by rorts, swindles and pork-barrelling to vested interests. God knows how the USAs version will turn out, administered by aChicago politician and staffed by Wall Street types hungry for a new score.

    But ETS conforms to “rights-and-process” model of post-modern liberalism. So everything must be OK.

  6. Hermit
    December 19th, 2008 at 13:11 | #6

    The US EPA’s sulphur dioxide auction seems to have far fewer gremlins than the EU CO2 scheme. Perhaps it doesn’t tolerate the queue of triers-on wanting to claim offsets. Those same offsets would re-emerge as tax deductions under a straight carbon tax and most would be equally unverifiable.

    Interestingly in the early days the SO2 auction was run by an outfit called the Chicago Climate Exchange but now the govt dept seems to run it alone. Another outfit called the California Air Resources Board or similar seem to be as muddle headed as the EU. If Obama gets the Federal EPA to run a CO2 auction they might get it right.

  7. Ian Gould
    December 19th, 2008 at 14:35 | #7

    Hermit, it has more to do with the fact the sulphur dioxide program has actually been running for a decade and has had time to sort itself out whereas this year is the first year of real trading on the EU market (previously trading was voluntary).

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