Australia – doing the right thing for the wrong reason

When I last looked Australia was in per capita terms the most carbon dioxide polluting nation in the world. Its energy is heavily dependent upon coal, which it burns to generate the electricity it uses in great quantities, especially for its air conditioning.  The Australian Government proposed to reduce its emissions with their own version of an emissions trading scheme in the face of opposition politically, it has decided to withdraw any attempt to trade emissions for three years.

The political opposition in Australia is led by a leader, Tony Abbott, who does not believe that humans are changing the climate and is fighting any Emissions Trading tooth and nail. Mr Abbott also rather curiously claims that “dodgy” home insulation has caused home fires, which is an argument I have never heard advanced anywhere in the world.

It strikes me that the Australians have reached the right decision about emissions trading but for the wrong reason. Emissions trading is a way of trying to influence behaviour indirectly; it sets up complex bureaucracy with so benefit that is proportional to the cost involved. It is a very poor way of trying to reduce emissions.

It seems that in Australia the public are not supporting plans to curb emissions as much as they used to. There are probably two factors. First, the economic recession frightens people from wanting to improve the future by displacing that desire with a wish to improve the present. Secondly, the events at Copenhagen in December have show negative leadership; the leaders of the developed nations and most important developing nations cannot agree a simple package of climate change measures, why should anyone listen to them when they argue that climate change is a threat?