Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Worst polluters 'off the hook' under Howard

Dr Pearse says the Government should do more to encourage the biggest polluting companies to cut their emissions - rather than give them a free ride at the cost of the rest of the community.

By Adele O'Hare
ABC news

Prime Minister John Howard's plan for an emissions trading scheme is letting Australia's worst polluting industries get off the hook, the author of a damning book argues.

Guy Pearse is a Liberal Party member and former adviser to the Howard Government who has documented the role of the self-described 'greenhouse mafia' - the lobbyists for the worst polluting industries - in helping to write government policy on climate change.

In his new book, High and Dry: John Howard, climate change and the selling of Australia's future, Dr Pearse says lobbyists from these industries have admitted to him on tape that they have been running Australia's greenhouse policy remotely for many years.

Dr Pearse says this kind of compensation for the worst polluting industries is the exact opposite of the kind of incentives an emissions trading scheme should provide.

"If you look closely at the implications of effectively carving out those worst-polluting industries from the emissions trading scheme, the impact is to double the carbon price that the rest of the economy bears," he said.

"So you and I end up paying more for our electricity, in order that our worst-polluting industries get off virtually scot-free."

He says that instead of encouraging Australia's worst polluters to cut emissions, the report's recommended course of action would give them a free ride.

"What's being proposed is that our worst-polluting industries get compensated, both for the erosion of their asset value now that we're costing pollution rather than allowing it for nothing, but also they're going to be receiving 100 per cent compensation for the increase in the cost of electricity associated with putting a price on carbon," he said.

"But... once you understand who's in his ear, then his policy makes perfect sense because it turns out that our worst-polluting industries have an overwhelming overrepresentation among the voices that Howard takes most seriously on climate change."

"And when you look closely you find that it's only about 10 per cent of the economy, the mining, metals and energy sector, that he's really paying a great deal of attention to, and going out of his way with his greenhouse policy to serve."

"Those industries, while most Australians now have been sold a message that they are the backbone of the economy and the key to our future prosperity, they're only about $1 in 10 in the economy and about a job in 20."

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