Carbon Tax opponents inaccurate, writes Saliem Fakir

read the original here: Business Day
DAVID Gleason urges us to “look to Australia’s Abbott for carbon tax lead,” cautioning that a hastily applied carbon tax in South Africa will have a damaging effect on key business sectors, and implying that Australia is a case in point (Torque, September 11).

While I wholeheartedly agree that the carbon tax must indeed be subject to thorough consultation (not least of all with impoverished communities so that we can ensure that it is structured in such a way as to serve them rather than further adding to their cost burden), Mr Gleason’s assertions about Australia’s carbon tax are inaccurate on several fronts.

First, in Australia it is not, nor was it ever, a “carbon tax” as some media have claimed.

Australia has an emissions trading scheme which began with a fixed price for three years. The outgoing government promised to end the fixed price period a year early and move to a floating price.

Second, and again in contrast to some media reports, the carbon price was not a major issue affecting the way people voted.

Exit polling found that it was only a top issue for a meagre 3% of Australia’s voters.

There’s good reason for this — the effect of Australia’s emissions trading scheme on the economy has been marginal. In the first 12 months of its operation, gross domestic product grew about 2.5% (which is in line with long-term trends), industrial production increased 5.1%, retail trade increased 3.1%, household consumption increased 1.7% and more than 160,000 new jobs were added to the economy. Hardly the consequences predicted by doomsday prophets.

Now, compare this with the affect that making large businesses pay for their pollution had on emissions in the first 12 months. Emissions from electricity decreased 7%, the emissions intensity of electricity generation fell 4.5% and renewable energy generation is up 25%.

The propensity of South Africa’s carbon tax opponents to sight Australia’s “carbon tax failure” as an argument for why the proposed South Africa carbon tax should not be passed are, when one looks at the facts, completely unfounded and smacks more of fear-mongering than being factually accurate.

Saliem Fakir

Head of Living Planet Unit, WWF-SA

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