Last week saw two very interesting stories:
- The Australian government of Kevin Rudd presented its Green Paper on a possible greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme. Australia wants to have its “Carbon Pollution Reduction scheme” (a better name than the EU’s ETS) started by 2010. It will cover around 1000 companies in the energy sector, transport and forestry but will leave the agricultural sector out of the system. The proposed system will also set a maximum price cap (a “safety valve”) and provide tax cuts to offset rising prices for fuels. Like the EU’s emissions trading scheme, the Australian green paper proposes to give free allowances to certain energy-intensive industries to prevent carbon leakage. A summary of the green paper is available online. With all the exemptions and offsets, the proposal (which should lead to a White Paper by the end of the year) is seriously weaker than could be expected from Rudd’s Labour government.
- Al Gore called for a 10-year “going-to-the moon-like” plan to shift the American economy to renewables. By 2018 all US electricity can be produced from renewable sources if there is the political will to do it, according to the “climate pope”. Gore’s visionary speech can be questioned (is such a scaling-up of renewable energy sources realistically possible in ten years?) but his analysis of the barriers to this renewables revolution is certainly correct (and not only for the US): “… the greatest obstacle to meeting the challenge of 100 percent renewable electricity in 10 years may be the deep dysfunction of our politics and our self-governing system as it exists today. In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness”. Andrew Rivkin of the NY Times’ Earth blog has produced an excellent “annotated” version of the Gore speech.