As I have been reviewing the debate about Carbon Tax I have become increasingly aware that there has been a paradigm shift, and a lot f the thinking being regurgitated on both sides fails to take this into account.
In the red corner we have Julia Gillard, whose commitment to the tax may be called into question. It is only a year ago during the election campaign that she vowed ‘there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead’. Whispering in her ear is the redoubtable Bob Brown who as captain coach of the Greens is committed to all things Green. He has argued load and long that the only way to promote change is to make it economically non-viable to pollute.
In the blue corner is Tony Abbot who famously declared Climate change to be bunk. He argues that he has moved from that position, though clearly he is not alarmed by the prospects, He has taken the line that a Carbon Tax will be bad for the economy, and bad for jobs, therefore he has determined to fight it.
The logic of the Climate Charge argument os that since the Industrial Revolution we as a species have proceeded to pollute more, and at the same time, we have demolished forests at an alarming rate, which is the environments way of dealing with carbon in the atmosphere which is the big problem of it all.
Clearly human contribution is significant, however not the only contribution, and correctly we observe that in the history of the world climate has changed, we have had ice ages, etc, and some of these changes have lead to the extinction of species. The general argument is that we as humans should endeavor to minimize the impact we have in the negative, if we can not have a positive impact on the envirnment.
The argument for a Carbon Tax is that the only way to stop polluters polluting is to level a taxation based on the level of pollution; the argument is that this will make them change their behaviour as a reduction in pollution will reduce the impact of the tax on their profits. If money was the only question and the only motivation this might be correct. In an era of go-getum capitalism this would seem to be correct.
My point is that their has been a paradigm shift and whilst money is important there are a lot of other factors going on. Some time back we were given the option of making a clean energy contribution on our energy bills to help ensure that energy companies would start embracing cleaner energy alternatives. This was not a tax, and my understanding is that lots of us took to opportunity to make this contribution. Why? Because many of us believe that this is a good outcome. If we were operating on pure capitalism we would not do this.
Public perception of major polluters is increasingly negative, and in an information age there is a value on perception, outside the pure constraints of capitalism. There is also a concern on the part of many that Government is increasing becoming a major absorber of financial resources at every level. When I was growing up there was a thing people referred to as the civil service. Increasingly this became referred to as the public service, as any vague semblance of civility dropped off the radar. Now one notices that the terms being used are the public sector or government business as it would seem any notion of service is also being forgotten.
If Government is serious about Carbon Pollution, why was the NSW State Labor Government it it’s dying days allowed to commit the state to another Coal Fired Power Station? Why have we not cleaned up endless grubby buses belching diesel fumes. Why do we not see more effort on the part of Government to lead by example. Why should parliament not conduct it’s business telecommuting and online webinars and other tools that would reduce the Carbon Footprint of Government.
I suspect requiring the publishing of Carbon Footprint figures on the part of major businesses would quite possibly be as effective as a tax. The power bills arrives with a Carbon Emissions Figure on it. Suddenly there is a figure which can attract public interest. This way you allow people to make cleaner choices, which I believe they will, without the need for the Government to impose a new tax structure. Assume it was effective, and all the major polluters made real and substantial change. The drop in Government Revenue will need to be gained from somewhere, as it seems that successive Governments accommodate larger and larger incomes.
I do believe in Climate Change, and in a Post Capitalist Society I believe the correct response is to put the issue clearly – in a non-polemical fashion – before the community and embark on programs that encourage a change on behaviour. Government needs to get more imaginative than to think that the answer to every problem is another tax.