Falling emissions a free hit for Abbott’s Direct Action policy

Just before Christmas Environment Minister Greg Hunt released some (albeit still vague) details of the government’s Direct Action policy on climate change. Here’s an outline of the main points. Put simply, the government will provide $1.5billion over three years to fund projects that reduce Australia’s emissions, to reach a target of 5 per cent emissions cuts. (The Coalition went into the election promising to commit $3 billion to the scheme.) There will be solar panel rebates for low-income households, capped at 100,000 rebates per year.

Analysts say $1.5billion is not enough. But it’s possible the Coalition might be handed a free hit, because Australia’s emissions may fall anyway due to two factors. Firstly, manufacturing closures (such as Holden) may mean Australia’s industrial emissions fall naturally. Secondly, a report by the Australia Institute suggests Australian energy consumers are cutting energy use in response to the steep rise in energy prices over the past four years or so – and especially since the carbon tax debate brought the issue to the forefront of people’s minds. More efficient technology is also reducing big domestic greenhouse gas items such as air conditioning and televisions.

In contrast, if the carbon tax is left in place and its existing year-on-year emissions targets for are not revised, it’s been estimated it would deliver cuts of about 15 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020 – again because of the two factors mentioned above.

The Coalition may thus be gifted its 5 per cent cut and be able to present Direct Action as a success, even though any cuts it achieved will be far less than the carbon tax would have delivered – and manifestly inadequate for anyone following climate change science.

More analysis of Direct Action in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

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