photo: Ben Helps/CC BY
One of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters, both per capita and nationally, and one of the largest exporters of coal, Australia has a rocky road in regards to climate policy. Now, the lower house of parliament has passed a highly contested carbon tax.
Under the plan, to begin on July 1, 2012, 500 of the nation's biggest polluters will be forced to pay A$23 per ton of carbon emitted. Exemptions are given to the agriculture and forestry sectors. The goal of it all is to reduce emissions by 159 million tons of carbon by 2020 (BBC News).Pricing Carbon Removes Market Distortions
Thousands of Australians have protested the tax--and while it's probably a good idea to vigorously debate how best to price carbon--but the thing that we all have to realize is that without a price on carbon, without the price of carbon-intensive activities rising to incorporate the true environmental cost, we will have zero chance of either slowing climate change or transitioning towards renewable energy sources before fossil fuel reserves become prohibitively expensive and are ultimately exhausted.
While all that means fossil fuel prices will rise, as well as prices for goods heavily dependent upon them, the more accurate way of thinking about it isn't as these things become more expensive, but rather than they now cost what they should have all along under a true cost economic system.
It's not meddling in a free market system. It's actually eliminating a de facto market-distorting subsidy.