True to faithful form, the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, fronted the CMI Emissions Reduction Summit and Marketplace in Melbourne 5-6 May 2014. Whatever you might say, the Minister turns up!
Did the Minister have anything new to say? Not really.
The Minister gave his pitch on innovation with incentives to transform our economy, rather than the carbon price approach.
The Minister attempted to put his approach in an historical perspective. In the 1850s London was threatened by typhoid and cholera. Later, around 1900, city streets were clogged by horse manure. Later still, in the 1980s, the ozone hole threatened turn Australia into a barbecue. Technology and innovation overcame these problems. And so the Emissions Reduction Fund aims to catalyse technology and innovation to reduce emissions.
The Minister then summarised his approach thus: we will keep the CFI, keep the Clean Energy Regulator and keep NGERS (the national carbon accounting system). He will add $2.5b of incentives, stir and the pick up the pipeline of the cheapest abatement. As for big business, the Minister said that safeguards (read penalties) will apply to 130 emitters from 2015 but that no revenue had been budgeted (doesn’t sound too tough).
One telling question was asked: given the ERF is not an effective market scheme, how can it be scaled up for the longer term task? With no backward steps, the Minister asserted that the ERF is a market system that can be scaled. We will look in 2015 at the targets for beyond 2020. Staying on the front foot, he noted EU Emissions Trading Scheme had not worked with reductions only coming from economic collapse.
This is true enough, but if the absolute measure of the EU ETS is meeting targets, then it has 100% succeeded. And we know from recent price hikes in Australia, that pricing electricity results in emissions drops.
The Minister turns up.