Is the power of the carbon lobby an insurmountable political barrier to effective climate change policy in Australia?

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Politics and Climate change

In the early 2000s, climate change has become a major concern in Australia (Harvey, Clarke, and Nursey-Bray, 2011). The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) confirmed in 2013 that Australia is getting warmer, and will face increasingly intense temperatures and longer fire periods due to climate change. In 2014, the Bureau of Meteorology published a study on the status of Australia’s environment, detailing some important points such as the rise of Australia's temperatures and the growing incidence of wildfires, periods of drought and flooding, all related to variations in climate (Harvey, Clarke and Nursey-Bray, 2011). As a consequence, rainfall is likely to decline in the southeast of Australia and rise in the northwestern part of the state (CSIRO, 2013). Australia's coastal areas are predicted to face increase in sea level of around 9 to 89 cm which could result in coastal flooding and erosion (CSIRO, 2013). Such changes are projected to have adverse economic , financial, and public health effects on Australia. Yet the primary source of global warming is energy-absorbing gasses such as carbon dioxide released by natural processes such as respiration and volcanic activity, and by human activities such as burning, land-use changes and fossil fuel combustion. Since the Industrial Revolution began humans have increased ambient Co2 levels by more than a quarter. This is the climate change's powerful force. Methane is a hydrocarbon gas generated by both natural and human factors, such as the decay of waste products, agriculture especially rice, as well as the management of mammal manure. Similarly, CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) are synthetic chemicals of mostly industrial origin used in a variety of applications but they are considered very harmful for their ability to lead to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Keeping in mind the projections made by (Garnaut 2011), reducing carbon emissions has become an significant subject. In 2007, the Australian Government signed the Kyoto Protocol (KP) as a commitment to tackle climate change. Subsequently, the government proposed a regional emissions compensation program, known as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), to fulfill KP obligations, and more. The CPRS is an alternative to climate change reduction guided by a 'price and export' strategy. The agreement signed by 107 countries in Copenhagen provides for restricting the increase in global temperature increases by 2100 to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial times. Under the AgreementTwo main consuming countries – China, India – vowed to cut their carbon emissions by 25-50 percent by 2020, while the USA, the 2nd biggest generating emitter in 2008, committed to curb GHG emissions by 20 percent by 2020 (Burnell, 2012). These goals are purely interest-free and inadequate to achieve the Agreement 's aim of rising the global surface temperature rise to 3 degrees Celsius after 80 years from 2020. Although Australia's per capita GHG emissions are the highest among developed nations (Garnaut 2011), the total pollution effect the country gives is relatively low in the international scale. Australia emitted a total of around 590 to 600 million tons of comparable CO2 into the earth system in 2007 (Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Department 2010). It is less than 2 percent of all pollution from the planet. Despite this comparatively small rate of global GHG emissions, Australia's involvement in the global climate shift mitigation campaign can be seen as a means of indicating that the country is looking for taking measures for the betterment of the environment.

In 2012, a carbon tax scheme was implemented in Australia by the Labor governing party as the 2011 Clean Energy Act which came into effect July 2012. At the time of its launch, pollution from businesses exposed to the scheme fell by 7 percent. As a result of being in a position for such a brief period, Australia's 28th Prime Minister indicated that he intended to abolish "the carbon tax," regulated organizations responded quite weakly, with very few funds being earmarked in emission reductions (Garnaut 2011). The plan was repealed in 2014, in its position later the same year, the Government set up as fund to decrease emissions. The carbon tax was part of an ambitious climate policy program also known as the Renewable Energy Futures Program(Garnaut 2011),. The future planned out to attain these targets by motivating Australia's largest emitters to improve the energy efficiency and engage in renewable power. The system was regulated by Renewable energy commissioner. Industry and household insurance is given by revenue created from the fee. (Burnell, 2012). The system required industries that create more than twenty thousand tons of greenhouse gasses equivalent to greenhouse gases every year and that were not approved to earn pollution permits in the shipping or food sector, named carbon units (Jotzo and Hatfield – Dodds, 2013). Carbon units were either bought from the government or released free as part of business sector aid procedures.. As part of the plan, the federal income tax was lowered from $6,000 to $18,200 for those making less than $80,000 a year (Palutikof, 2010The SMH announced in 2012 that Renewable Energy Future 's carbon price system has not deterred new investments in the coal industry as expenditure on discovery increased by 60 to 65 percent in late 2010, more than any other mining product. The government department Geoscience Australia announced expenditures in coal prospecting reached five hundred million dollars over the same time period. (Beeson and Stone, 2013). Following the introduction of this strategy, declines in carbon emissions were observed. Emissions from sectors subject to the pricing program were estimated to be 2 percent lower, and nearly after the introduction of the pricing scheme, Australia's carbon dioxide emissions from power generation plummeted to a low of all time, with coal usage declining around 10 percent from the previous year 2008. Demand for energy had plummeted, and was at the lowest point in the National Power Sector since 2006 in 2012 (CSIRO 2007).

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