The tax, which charges the heaviest polluters for every ton of greenhouse gas emitted, was voted off the books even though it appeared to be reducing carbon emissions, according to The Guardian:
The government argues the carbon pricing scheme has been ineffective, but national emissions have actually fallen by 0.8% in the first calendar year of its operation, the largest fall in 24 years of records. Since the tax began, emissions from the east coast electricity market have fallen 11%, but emissions from other sources — especially coal and gas mining have increased.
The move is particularly disheartening since Australia produces the highest amount of greenhouse gas per person among developed countries, according to the World Wildlife Fund. An increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon, is linked to many changes in climate around the world, including rising temperatures and less rainfall. In Australia, bush fires are becoming a larger threat as temperatures have progressively warmed each decade since the 1950s.
Bush fires are part of the natural ecological cycle of the country (some types of Australian seeds actually need to be burned in order to germinate). But in recent years, bush fires have grown in size and intensity, as the map on the right shows.
New South Wales saw at least 98 wild fires in 2013, 22 of which burned out of control for a period, according to Weather Underground. About 143,000 acres and 208 homes were charred. Last year was the worst fire season in 40 years, local officials said.
According to Lesley Hughes, an ecologist at Macquarie University near Sydney and a member of Australia’s Climate Council, the country is in the middle of a long-term drying trend that is making fires worse:
For example, annual extreme fire weather significantly increased at all seven stations analysed in New South Wales for the period from 1973-2010. The same study found that overall, 24 of 38 weather stations across Australia saw a significant increase. Overall, only one station reported a decrease, though it wasn’t a significant one.
Abbott’s government got the tax abolished after lobbying from the coal industry, the Financial Times says:
Climate change policy has dogged successive Australian administrations, which must balance a powerful industry lobby led by the country’s A$60bn (US$56bn) coal industry against growing public concern over greenhouse gas emissions.
The move will save Australian consumers about $US550 AUS a year. It will also punch a hole in Australia’s national budget, The Guardian notes.
The tax was $US25.40 a tonne and was scheduled to move to the floating and lower international price in 12 months.
The repeal will cost the budget around $US7bn over the next four years as around 350 businesses, mainly electricity generators and big manufacturers, no longer have to pay the tax.
But the abolition is a huge victory for Abbott and climate change deniers everywhere. Abbott in 2009 described climate science as “crap” and previously appointed science sceptics as policy officials on energy and business.
Separately, Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, have become largely denuded of trees.
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