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.
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.
(06/23/2014) The UNESCO World Heritage Committee today unanimously rejected a controversial proposal by the Australian government to strip 74,000 hectares of temperate rainforest from a World Heritage Site in Tasmania. In an embarrassing setback for the Australia government, it took the committee less than ten minutes to unanimously reject the proposal.
(06/13/2014) Australia is seeing a rise in groups that purport to champion environmental causes but are actually actively undermining them as front organizations for industrial interests, argues an op-ed published in The Ecologist.
(01/06/2014) Australia had its warmest year on record, with annual temperatures 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1961-1990 average, according to a new analysis from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). This is 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than the previous warmest year on record—2005—for Australia. Global warming due to burning fossil fuels is increasing temperatures worldwide.
(11/18/2013) Around 60,000 Australians marched yesterday across the country calling on their government not to go backwards on climate action, according to organizers. Australia has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy with the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, including legislation to end its carbon pricing, cutting funding to renewable energies, and obstructing progress at the ongoing UN Climate Summit in Warsaw.
(11/14/2013) For many concerned about climate change, Australia has suddenly become the new Canada. With the election of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in September, the land down under has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy, including pushing to end its fledgling carbon emissions program which was only implemented in 2012 and cutting funding for renewable energy. These move come at a time when Australia has just undergone its warmest 12 months on record and suffered from record bushfires.