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Slacking off on climate is just not cricket (ABC Environment)

The job of tackling climate change has not gone away. We need to let the scaremongering of vested interests go through to the 'keeper, writes ACF president Ian Lowe.

It was five weeks ago — on 12 December, to be precise — that Australian cricket was in terminal decline, having lost to New Zealand on home soil for the first time in 25 years.

Heads had to roll. Youth was the answer. Our bowlers couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Ponting and Hussey were past it and needed to make way for new blood.

But by 4 January, we could be forgiven for thinking Australian cricket had entered into a new golden age. Our bowlers had swept aside the mighty Indian batting line-up, our once-decrepit middle order was 'resurgent', Pup had scored a multi-record-breaking triple ton and we had India on the ropes.

That was quick.

Similarly, we should be wary of short memories and predictions of doom when it comes to Australia's price on pollution, which comes into force on 1 July this year. As the legislation was passed in October last year, we were subjected to big polluters' predictions of apocalypse.

The CEO of BlueScope Steel said under a carbon pricing regime "tens of millions of dollars would be wiped off the books". His company, through the $300 million Steel Transformation Plan, is an enormous beneficiary of the government's Clean Energy Future package.

Mitch Hooke from the Minerals Council said a price on pollution would "take a baseball bat to the economy" — just before mining companies set new records for exploration, expansion and profit.

Gas giant Woodside said the carbon price could be the "breaking point" for Australia's LNG industry. Independent analysis has found LNG projects will be "surprisingly unaffected" by a price on pollution and the industry will remain competitive. The carbon price constitutes a tiny percentage of operating expenses and is having no impact on investment.

The big polluters and their industry peak bodies have preached disaster to anyone who will listen and has a spare column inch, the Opposition has recited its 'tax on everything' mantra ad nauseum, and the public has been given the impression that the Australian economy in 2012 is in the same state as our cricket team a month ago.

Throughout last year commentators told us these and other forecasts of looming economic meltdown were putting the federal government under serious pressure.

But was that pressure real or perceived? Wasn't it just like the 'mounting pressure' on Australia's veteran batsmen after the Hobart loss to New Zealand? A pressure that was swiftly relieved after a couple of solid wins.

The risk we now face is that, in the wake of a 'win' in the form of the Clean Energy Future package, Australia will take its eye off the ball, even though the need to focus on a long-term goal remains crucial

Now is the time to begin moving to a cleaner, healthier economy.

The price on pollution and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will open up job opportunities in a range of new and existing industries. Research by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the ACTU in 2010 showed that shifting Australia to a cleaner economy will create 3.7 million new jobs across the country by 2030.

The arguments of big polluters against a price on pollution and the CEFC are evaporating as fast as the 'pressure' on centurions Ponting and Hussey. Remember when we couldn't act because the US and China had no price on pollution? China has just announced its carbon tax will begin in 2015, while many US states (including California, an economy about 30 per cent larger than Australia's) are establishing their own prices on pollution.

For those who may be genuinely challenged by the 0.7 per cent increase in the CPI (less than one cent on the dollar), there is generous compensation on the way. And this compensation, which will leave low-income Australians better off, will not be scrapped with a change of government, as Green senators will hold the balance of power until at least 2016. By then, the compensation, as well as the price on pollution, will simply be the new normal.

The CEFC will unlock tens of billions of dollars of new investment, paving the way for Australia to become a global leader in renewable energy. It is the long-term thinking that Australia cannot avoid just because we've had the immediate success of putting a price on pollution.

The job of tackling climate change has not gone away. We need to let the scaremongering of vested interests go through to the 'keeper.

Comments (1)

Steven Gannon
24 February 2012 - 12:06am

Dear Ian, should we really let the scaremongering go through to the keeper or would it be more constructive to let the third umpire know that the buggers are trying to tamper with the ball again? Or, will they actually go away if we ignore them? Steve Gannon.