No time to move backwards on CPRS

The Southern Cross Climate Coalition (SCCC) has written to major parties and cross bench Senators urging key amendments to the CPRS and has warned the Government and Liberal Party that the SCCC would not support the legislation if it was made ineffective or irresponsible by backwards steps.

“Neither Malcolm Turnbull nor Kevin Rudd can claim the CPRS is ‘environmentally effective or economically responsible’ if they take backward steps,” said SCCC spokesperson, John Connor.

“It’s not effective or responsible to give windfall gains to booming coal miners or to give billions extra to businesses who bought brown coal fired generators knowing a carbon price was coming. And it’s not effective or responsible to top up the CPRS ‘green carbon’ provisions in a way which undermines a global rules based system.

“Some in industry are proposing amendments which would hinder the transition to a low carbon economy and further restrict the flexibility needed for an effective global response. They would likely cast a much heavier financial burden on taxpayers, ordinary households and small businesses.

“We’ve made it clear to the Prime Minister and Malcolm Turnbull to say these industry proposals would make the CPRS ineffective and unsupportable. Only Big Polluters would support such a CPRS.”

“We have suggested amendments aimed to boost Australia’s competitiveness in the global low carbon economy and increase cooperation towards the achievement of an effective globalagreement.”

The letters acknowledge bi-partisan support for the 2020 carbon pollution reduction range of 5% to 25% as a welcome acknowledgement of Australia’s interest in securing a global agreement that stabilises greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million or lower. The letters note a reduction of at least 25% would be Australia’s “fair share”, with recent science reinforcing the importance of flexibility as strengthened goals become necessary.

The SCCC’s key amendments (see below) seek to ensure flexibility regarding targets and subsidies to ‘emissions intensive trade exposed industries’ (EITEIs), extra energy efficiency measures, targeted use of permit revenue for investment and support, as well as enhanced transparency and accountability.

The letters suggest that, with the economy showing signs of recovery and likely to avoid recession, the 4th May “global recession buffer” additional handout of free permits to EITEIs could be better targeted towards clean industry, employment, skills development or low income household support.

The SCCC also noted that any green carbon, or biosequestration efforts, must be part of a global rules- based system that ensures proper measurement and compliance. The letters also recommend “complementary policies in areas like land use should be capable of delivering additional emissions reductions as well as creating positive revenue streams and social benefits for rural communities”.

“Strengthening and passing the CPRS, without adding further polluter subsidies or inflexibility, will help Australia be both competitive in the emerging global clean energy economy and cooperative in achieving an effective global climate agreement.

“Now is not the time for Australia to go backwards. Now is not the time to be ineffective or irresponsible. Now is the time to accelerate a low carbon economic recovery. Now is the time to drive future competitiveness and prosperity,” concluded Mr Connor.

SCCC key CPRS amendments
While individual SCCC members have other detailed suggestions, the SCCC recommends the legislation should be amended to include:

  • A requirement for an independent review of targets, caps and gateways immediately following the finalisation of the next Working Group Assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013/14, or equivalent body, or a significant increase in the ambition of other major emitters’ climate efforts.
  • A requirement for an independent review of EITEI assistance following the negotiation of a new global climate change agreement and/or a significant increase in the ambition of other major emitters’ climate efforts.
  • Energy efficiency measures such as:
    • Targeted transitional financial incentives for commercial buildings and industries or, in the absence of equivalent national policies, a national ‘white certificate‘ trading scheme additional to CPRS.
    • Strengthened appliance, building and fuel efficiency standards to world’s best practice levels.
    • Amendments to Energy Efficiency Opportunities Legislation to extend its reach, improve uptake of opportunities, enhance public reporting and require third party auditing.
    • Large-scale energy efficiency deployment programs
  • Targeted investment and support from permit revenue:
    • Continuing support for low income households, strengthening existing programs to ensure well coordinated, broad coverage, integrated energy efficiency and climate variability preparedness support.
    • Dedicating at least 20% of permit revenues to the research, development and deployment of clean energy and technology solutions in both Australia and developing countries.
    • Ensuring a substantial proportion of permit revenues is dedicated to help developing countries adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
    • Establishing clean industry and innovation hubs in key regional centres funded by a revenue stream equivalent to 3% of carbon permits, backed by increases in the Productivity Places Program.
    • Promoting ecosystem resilience and biosequestration efforts through a National Biodiversity and Climate Change Fund, funded by a secure revenue stream equivalent to at least 10% of carbon permits.
  • Enhanced transparency and accountability by ensuring standing for any person to enforce the legal obligations of the CPRS.

The SCCC acknowledges that in the next few years much of the permit revenue is allocated but believes legislative clarity regarding future permit revenue direction is important now. Amendments should state these revenues are directed by no later than 2015 as international action unfolds and transitional support needs subside.

The above amendments are advocated subject to there being no further unconditional subsidies to EITEIs, coal mining companies or coal fired generators, or any further hindrance to flexibility and review.

Media contact: Clare Cameron, 0419 626 155