Courage needed on environmental policy

In response to Alan McKenna (August 3), Revealing Carbon Tax Hypocrisy (July 27) was not about clever point scoring. The authors discussed an issue with dire environmental and economic consequences. What John Petheram and Lawrie Wilson expose is faulty and unethical government decision-making by both the ALP and the Coalition.

They ask us to think – Can Australia put a price on CO2 released through fossil fuel burning locally, yet still sell the same fossil fuel overseas to result in a threefold CO2 release globally? The point is – if the burning happens elsewhere it’s still happening. It’s called ‘global’ warming because it’s a global problem.

Our federal and state governments are policy jugglers. Environmental policy in the air: a carbon price (let’s watch CO2 go down). Economic policy in the air: sell coal (but don’t mention the CO2 going up, and up, and up). It is political expediency. It lacks courage and foresight to do something real.

Stand on the Newcastle docks, watch the queue of coal barges – as far as the eye can see. Stand next to the vast open cuts of the Latrobe Valley. Think of each tonne of coal extracted, transported, burnt, all this over decades, then there’s the scale of it globally. Then there’s the state government’s intention to ‘bring the Pilbara to Gippsland.’

A carbon price makes a good beginning to change economic behaviour, but the scale of our addiction to fossil fuels needs policy-consistent decisions and a big picture view. Sleight of hand won’t fix anything. It is rightly called hypocrisy.


Mount Helen

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