News / Asia

Australia Prepares for Carbon Tax

Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).
x
Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).
Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).
Phil Mercer
SYDNEY - Australia is preparing to introduce a carbon tax July 1. The levy would force about 300 of the country's biggest polluters to pay roughly $23 for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. The aim is to encourage heavy polluters to invest in cleaner technology to reduce their tax liability and help the environment.

Australia is the world's largest coal exporter and one of the biggest per capita greenhouse gas emitters.  

"The question is how we can get dangerous pollution in Australia cut, at the same time as making sure that jobs continue to grow and the economy continues to grow," said Mark Dreyfus, the Australian government's parliament secretary for climate change.  "And, the advice we have from expert economists, expert scientists is that the best way to do that is by putting a price on carbon."

There has been a vociferous campaign against the new levy by industry groups and conservative politicians. They argue it will push up costs for businesses, erode Australia's economic competitiveness and cost thousands of jobs, while pushing up food and electricity bills for households.

Last month, the loss of hundreds of jobs at an aluminum smelter in the New South Wales Hunter Valley prompted an attack on the government by the opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has promised to kill the levy if he wins the next election.

"Given that the carbon tax is already a wrecking ball swinging through the aluminum industry, the coal industry, the steel industry and the aviation industry, will the prime minister apologize to the 344 workers whose livelihoods are now imperiled by her broken promise never to have a carbon tax?" Abbott asked.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the carbon tax is the most important environmental and economic reform Australia has seen in a decade. She argues it will be the start of a new age for the economy, as it moves away from a reliance on cheap, domestic supplies of coal to renewable sources of energy, including, wind, solar and geothermal. The tax would then evolve into a market-based emissions trading scheme within three years.

Gillard has accused the opposition leader Abbott of misleading voters about the true impact that the carbon tax will have.

"[The] deputy speaker - he has even been out trying to scare cats and dogs about the impact of carbon pricing out at the RSPCA telling poor old Fido and Fluffy a fairy tale about how a cobra and python is coming to get them," Gillard said.  "Well, I can assure the leader of the opposition on the First of July cats will still purr, dogs will still bark and the Australian economy will continue to get stronger."

Many analysts expect the carbon tax to have a "minimal" impact on the economy.  Australia's central bank predicts that overall prices for goods and services will rise by less than one percent, although electricity bills are likely to increase by 10 percent.

Many companies will receive tax concessions, cash grants and free carbon permits as part of multi-billion dollar compensation schemes designed to soften the impact on businesses.

Geoff Rousel, an analyst with Australia's Westpac bank, says many firms are prepared for life under the new tax.

"We are definitely seeing a very significant change in behavior. And, that change is that we've moved from people working out from, 'Am I ready to deal with the compliance obligations, the legal obligations that I'll have under the scheme?' and now firmly focusing on competition; so competitively positioning themselves against their peers. And, of course, that's how a market-based mechanism is meant to work," said Rousel.

Although many Australian businesses complain that the carbon price of $23 is too high, the environmental lobby insists it should be higher to encourage polluters to clean up their act more quickly. Many conservation groups say the carbon tax will be a significant step towards reducing Australia's emissions of carbon dioxide, which they blame for rising temperatures.

Australia's experience is being closely watched by its Asian neighbors.  India already has a similar scheme. South Korea has made sustainable, low carbon growth a national priority.  Other nations including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam are pursuing similar objectives.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid