When Greg Hunt moved on from the Environment portfolio, he smugly told us his job was done. He had successfully destroyed carbon pricing and replaced it with his Direct Action Plan which he assured us has achieved greater emission reductions for a fraction of the price.
What a load of bullshit.
In May, the government held its third auction for the Emission Reduction Fund with almost all of the 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide savings (47 million tonnes) coming from protecting and restoring plants and trees.
In fact, of the $1.7 billion spent to date (67% of the total ERF funding), $1.2 billion has been spent on tree projects.
The government also aims, at a cost of A$50 million, to replace 20 million trees by 2020 to redress some of the damage from past land clearing.
Yet just one year of increased land clearing in Queensland has already removed many more trees than will be painstakingly planted during the entire program.
The carbon released from Queensland’s land clearing in 2012-2014 alone is estimated at 63 million tonnes.
There are also grave concerns about land clearing in NSW.
In May, the Baird government released a draft package of biodiversity and land management reforms designed to “get rid of red tape that is tying up farmers’ productivity.”
Chair of NSW Farmers, Mitchell Clapham, said current legislation is “enormously damaging” for farmers and welcomed reform which would give farmers increased land clearing and pest control powers.
“We have enormous tracks of land in the north-west of the state that are now covered in invasive native scrub and, because of the current acts and legislation, cannot be managed,” he said.
But an explosive report also issued in May shows that regulations have offered little impediment, with farmers clearing land at six times the rate approved by the government.
The findings are based on satellite data, which picked up the clearing of 81,000 hectares of land in the state from 2007-2011.
By comparison, the Office of Environment and Heritage approved just 12,480 hectares for clearing over that period, or about 15.6 per cent of the total land cleared.
Unexplained clearing has continued and even accelerated.
NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman also revealed plans to pay landholders $240 million over five years – and $70 million each year after that – to encourage private land conservation as part of the new laws.
The scheme would encourage farmers to bid voluntarily for funds to conserve key wildlife habitat on their land.
Which all seems a very wasteful approach – relax environmental laws and then pay farmers to not take advantage of them by not clearing land they may well have had no intention of clearing anyway.
Wilderness Society national director Lyndon Schneiders said at current rates it would take just two years to wipe out the gains from the total $1.2 billion spent under the three emissions reduction fund auctions on tree projects.
“The Turnbull government’s climate policy is completely illogical,” Mr Schneiders said.
“It has done nothing as Queensland and now NSW have gutted nature laws and allowed millions of trees to be ripped up and burnt, and then spends $1.2 billion of taxpayers money to keep trees in the ground and plant new ones.
“It would be easier and far cheaper to just reduce tree clearing.”
As reported in Reputex,
“Everyone involved in this charade is keeping mum – or their hands firmly on the wads of cash now in their wallets – about what they really think. They have been dicked around so much by the coming and going of the CPRS and the carbon price, that they feel they deserve something, and wads of cash from a government auction is fair game.
If a government is determined to force money into their pockets for doing something that their clients may well have done anyway (growing trees, not clearing other vegetation, continuing landfill gas operations), then who are they to argue.”
All up across the three auctions under the emissions reduction fund, $1.7 billion has been spent to buy 143 million tonnes of emissions savings from 348 projects at an average price of $12.10 per tonne.
The current price in the EU, to which it was suggested we align when the carbon price was floated, is about 5 Euros (roughly $7.35) so Hunt’s outlandish claims of buying abatement for a fraction of the price, ignoring the fact that it is the taxpayer rather than the polluter paying for it, are demonstrably false.
At Senate estimates hearings in May, the Clean Energy Regulator’s chief executive Chloe Munro said that about 45 per cent of the 143 million tonnes of CO₂ abatement (64 million tonnes) would be delivered by 2020 – about the same amount of carbon that Queenland’s land clearing released in 2012-14.
Australia emitted 549.3 mega-tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide in 2014-15. To truly meet our objective of 5% reduction on 2000 emission levels, we would have to reduce our output in 2020 to 472.2 Mt but the government, through fancy accounting, is claiming 530 Mt is the aim.
Considering our emissions increased by 1.3% in 2014-15, they are going to need every bit of that creative bookwork.
Speaking of which, you may be wondering why our commitment to reduce emissions by 26-28% by 2030 is based on the year 2005 rather than 2000 (or 1990 as many countries do). As the following table shows, the base year makes a big difference to the percentage abatement you can claim for the same reduction.
|Year||Annual emissions(million tonnes)||Target (million tonnes)||Reduction (million tonnes)||Target (per cent)|
|2005||532||393.68||138.32||26 per cent|
|2000||497||393.68||103.32||20.79 per cent|
|1990||428||393.68||34.32||8.02 per cent|
Other countries have made far greater commitments for 2030 eg based on 1990, Switzerland will reduce emissions by 50%, Norway and the EU by 40%. Even the US is committing to at least double our paltry 8%.
What Hunt has actually done is cost the nation billions in lost revenue, increased our emissions intensity, put the reef at risk, and saddled our children with the exponentially increasing cost of dealing with his cowardice and deceit.
Good job Greg, ya grub.