Contrary to the misinformation campaigns undertaken by the Coalition, and their allies in the school of climate deniers, Australia is just one among dozens of countries with carbon pricing, emissions trading or a combination of these; and many other countries have much more advanced energy efficiency schemes and development of renewables than Australia.
Emissions pricing has mobilised the private sector. The global carbon market was worth US$142 billion in 2010—up from just US$30 billion in 2006. Among other things, this market has delivered over 3000 clean development projects in developing countries.
Carbon taxes and emissions trading are only a small part of the picture with many countries having renewable energy programs that are growing much faster than in most advanced countries such as the U.S and Australia.
The report found that despite an overall 6.6 per cent global decline in clean energy investments last year, China invested almost twice as much as the United States in clean energy during 2009.
The full report on renewables investment from Pew can be found here:
Portugal has demonstrated an even more remarkable transformation in the last five or so years. In 2004, Portugal had just two percent wind and solar, but by the end of 2009 (the latest year for which data are available) this had risen to over fifteen percent! Its electricity consumption remained fairly level during the last decade.
While Australia's emissions are relatively small by world standards, about 30-40% of world emissions (depending on the data used) are emitted by economies which are a similar size or smaller than Australia's. Therefore it is a nonsense to say that no difference to greenhouse gas emissions will be made by reducing emissions in small economies. If these countries don't tackle their emissions then we are ignoring over a third of the world's emissions.
There are carbon pricing policies operating in many countries and planned or piloted schemes in others—both nationally and targeting specific sectors. The world's first carbon tax was introduced in Finland in 1990. Sweden introduced a scheme in 1991 and Great Britain introduced a “climate change levy” in 2001 on the use of energy in the industry, commerce and public sectors. The Netherlands levies a general fuel tax on all fossil fuels. Fuels used as raw materials are not subject to the tax. Tax rates are based on both the energy and carbon contents of fuels.
Carbon taxation is in place in the UK, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada—and under discussion in Japan and South Africa. India has a clean energy tax on coal that will raise half a billion dollars of revenue annually for clean technology development.
Although neither the US or Canada have national schemes, a number of areas in the U.S. including California (which has the world's eighth largest economy) have emissions reduction schemes. The largest is currently the The auction this week is the first held by the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI caps carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in 10 Northeastern states to 188 million tons CO2 (171 million metric tons). Approximately 90% of the allowances are to be auctioned on a quarterly basis, and that percentage will likely increase over time. This large-scale auctioning of allowances is a first for U.S. cap-and-trade programs. WRI served in an advisory role to the states and stakeholders that designed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
This effort is being closely watched by two other regional initiatives. Along with RGGI, the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGRA) and the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) will eventually cover more than half the U.S. population with efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The four Canadian provinces participating in the Western Climate Initiative make up 80% of Canada’s population.
Some cities in the US have also introduced schemes.Boulder (Colorado) implemented the United States’ first tax on carbon emissions from electricity, on April 1, 2007, at a level of approximately $7 per ton of carbon.
Canadian states with some form of carbon levy include Quebec (introduced in 2007), British Columbia (Carbon tax introduced in 200).
The Economist published a useful mid-2011 update on BC’s carbon tax in its July 21 edition. Excerpts follow:
Despite the levy, its economy is doing well. What is more, the tax is popular: it is backed by 54%, says a survey in the province by Environics, a pollster.
Since 2008 fuel consumption per head in the province has dropped by 4.5%, more than elsewhere in Canada. British Columbians use less fuel than any other Canadians. And British Columbians pay lower income taxes too.
The EU has had an emissions trading scheme since 2005, which covers half a billion people. The European Union emissions trading scheme (ETS) is the largest multinational emissions trading scheme in the world and obliges large emitters to produce no more than their particular European unit allowance.
Schemes also operate in Switzerland and New Zealand. In Asia, Japan and South Korea are piloting voluntary emissions trading schemes. South Korea also introduced economy-wide mandatory emissions trading legislation into its Parliament in April 2011 to commence in 2015 and is seeking to pass this legislation this year.
The EU is considering an additional carbon tax to cover, from 2013, many sources of emissions which are currently not included in its emissions trading scheme.
In China plans have been announced for emissions trading systems to be rolled out in six regions by 2013 and nationwide by 2015. China's ambitious strategy to see a 40%-45% cut by 2020 in "carbon emissions intensity" - that is, carbon emissions per unit of GDP - has been praised by those who claim the commitment from the world's biggest source of CO2 emissions shows up the US's indecision on carbon caps. But there are worries that the true impact of China's increasing number of coal-fired power stations is being masked by the cooling effects of these plants' sulphur emissions.There are active carbon price policies at the state and city level in many counties. China has announced it will introduce emissions trading progressively, commencing in a number of key cities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong (covering well over 100 million people).
India sets emission levels for 563 of the country's biggest polluters, such as power and, steel mills and cement plants, allowing businesses who use more energy to buy carbon certificates from those who use less. Trading will start in 2014.
Nationwide, it has a carbon tax (1 July 2010) of 50 rupees/tonne ($1.07/tonne) of coal produced in and imported to India.
In comparison to many other of its Asian counterparts, India's carbon pricing schemes are ambitious. They reflect an urgent need to curb emission rates from a country that – with four times the population of the US, an economy growing 8-9 per cent a year, and surging energy demand – makes it the country with the third highest carbon emissions.
Although it has refused to accept legally binding targets, India has pledged to reduce "carbon emissions intensity" - that is, carbon emissions per unit of GDP - by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020. But there are concerns about how both carbon initiatives will evolve because of a lack of data and trained manpower as well as weak penalties for firms that refuse to comply. Nonetheless, India's tax on coal is one of the first carbon taxes enacted at the national level by any major economy in the world.
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