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Emissions Trading: Fiddling while Rome Burns

Emissions Trading: Fiddling while Rome Burns

Australia loves its gossip. No wonder we’re fascinated at the back-stabbing going on in the Big Brother house, er..I mean..Liberal party over the emissions trading. But while palace intrigue bubbles over into open rebellion, our attention is diverted from the core objective: carbon reduction. It’s getting hotter out there. Is something burning?

The proposed ETS is a highly complex and expensive tool that will not significantly reduce our carbon emissions and will cost the electorate dearly. To compound the problem, history has shown that complex trading systems are notoriously unreliable at producing desired results. Take a look at the Murray Darling basin for an example of a trading scheme in action. How’s that working out? Or look at Wall Street. If the government’s objective is carbon reduction then policy needs to either reward good behaviour or penalize bad behaviour, not commercialise the activity.

Punishing bad behaviour is seldom well-received by the recipient, as any child will tell you. No-one likes being sent to the naughty step. But that’s the idea. It’s supposed to make the bad behaviour stop by creating consequences. If big companies need to do something bad – for example emitting too much carbon – then there needs to be consequences attached. Conversely there needs to be a commensurate reward for investing in renewable energy. “You made less carbon? Good power company. Now here’s your ice-cream”. Try creating a Tantrum Trading Scheme for three-year old children and see how you go influencing behaviour.

Climate change is a classic example of the Tragedy of the Commons. No-one individually owns the earth and no-one can individually fix it. So nothing gets done and no-one can take responsibility, even though we all know we need to. That is why we elect our best and brightest to govern, so that they can do what is right and what is best for our future. The flaw with that concept is that political parties are geared towards point-scoring and the three-year term rather than statesmanship. The Liberals above all need to remember that their job is to govern for the 41% of Australians that voted for them – not to snipe from a diametrically opposed position on every bill and then implode.

As one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, Australia has an opportunity to lead the climate change agenda with positive action. Our influence far outweighs our population, in this regard. Instead we are more consumed with the cat-fight at the Liberal OK corral. Bring back Big Brother, at least we didn’t expect any better from the contestants and we know it’s just entertainment.

Fiddling while Rome burns has consequences.

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Tags emissions trading schemeLiberal Partycarbon tradingemissionsenvironment

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