Two years after coming into effect, Australia kills carbon tax

Jeremy Hance
July 17, 2014

In a significant victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australian Senate has voted to repeal the country's two-year-old carbon tax. Abbott made dismantling the tax one of the cornerstones of his campaign last September even as Australia remains one of the highest carbon emitters per capita in the industrialized world.

After the vote, Abbott called the dismantled legislation "a useless, destructive tax, which damaged jobs, which hurt families' cost of living and which didn’t actually help the environment" during a press conference.

Repealing the tax is estimated to cost the Australian government $7 billion over the next four years, reports the Guardian.

Still repealing the tax doesn't change Australia's pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent by 2020 (based on 2000 levels), even though this is far less than what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. Abbott has said he will achieve these cuts via a program known as "Direct Action," which would give out $2.5 billion in grants for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the Direct Action plan, which some experts say isn't near enough to achieve the pledged cuts, has yet to be passed by the Australian Senate.

Open pit coal mine in Australia. The nation is the fourth largest producer of coal and the biggest exporter. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Open pit coal mine in Australia. The nation is the fourth largest producer of coal and the biggest exporter. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Although other countries have done U-turns on climate policy, Australia is the first developed nation to install a carbon tax and then repeal it.

The Opposition Leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, derided the government for appealing the carbon tax.

"I think future generations will look back on these bills and they will be appalled...at the short-sighted, opportunistic selfish politics of those opposite and Mr Abbott will go down as one of the most short-sighted, selfish and small people ever to occupy the office of prime minister," she said.

Since its election the Abbott administration has made a number of hugely controversial environmental decisions, including approving dumping dredging from mines in the Great Barrier Reef, culling sharks, installing a moratorium on new protected areas, and attempting to cut a huge swathe of forest from a UNESCO World Heritage site that was rebuked by the world body.

AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 17, 2014).

Two years after coming into effect, Australia kills carbon tax.