I have, on behalf of the Australian Environment Foundation, made a submission to yet another of those kangaroo court reviews into climate change policy designed to pave the way to causing even more harm to the economy and Australian living standards. This is an extract from the summary. The full submission can be read here.
Pursuit of policies designed to suppress emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” is severely harming the Australian economy with no compensatory environmental benefits. We address this in the context of energy, land clearing and forestry.
In the case of energy, measures taken to suppress carbon dioxide emissions have been centred on regulations to promote renewable electricity supply (especially wind and solar). These have, over the past 15 years, transformed Australia from having one of the world’s cheapest electricity supplies to one of the most expensive. This takes a direct toll on household bills. But far more damaging is its indirect costs in undermining what once comprised the key national comparative advantage of cheap energy inputs. Policies forcing higher energy costs destroyed cost advantages across manufacturing, mining and agriculture to the great detriment of living standards.
Land clearing restrictions were devised to meet the 1997 Kyoto Protocol under which Australia agreed to limit its emissions of greenhouse gas to an eight per cent increase by 2012. Those restrictions reduced Australian emissions by 110 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, without which Australian emissions in 2012 would have seen a 21 per cent increase.
To bring about these land clearance reductions, the Commonwealth in cooperation with the Governments in NSW and Queensland adopted planning regimes that prevented land being cleared for agricultural purposes. Not only did this deprive the nation of valuable resources for agricultural expansion but the land was taken from its owners without any compensation. One estimate is that the costs in terms of devalued land worth were $200 billion. Though relaxed in recent years, such measures remain in place and an ALP Commonwealth Government has said it would fully re-implement them.
In the case of forestry, what commenced as a policy to ensure a balance of timber-getting and environmental conservation has resulted in a virtual cessation of commercial native forestry in Australia. This has throttled a valued domestic industry. Its effect has been augmented by stringent regulations on timber imports, under green pressure, to combat the import of timber supposedly to assist in preventing illegal logging overseas.
The rationale for all these policies rested on supposed global detrimental effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Irrespective of the merits of the science behind that rationale, its implementation possibilities were never more than flimsy.
Global measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were ostensibly enhanced as a result of the Paris Agreement of 2015, but this had severe shortcomings. Chief among these was that, although developed nations agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by over 26 per cent, there were no disciplines on developing countries to take similar action except far into the future. Developing nations comprise a growing 60 per cent of global emissions. With the election of President Trump, the US will cease its own abatement program. This renders the Paris Agreement worthless and means Australian policies are a form of pointless self-harm.
The measures addressed in this submission are only some of those Australia has introduced to pursue a meaningless and impossible goal of reducing global carbon dioxide emissions. The measures should be rescinded at the earliest opportunity.
These views will not come as a surprise to those who have read my latest book CLIMATE CHANGE: Policies and Treaties in the Trump Era published by Connor Court.