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Australian government rollin’ coal with carbon tax repeal

Australian Parliament House

In the US, a new fad among conservative anti-green petrol-heads is seeing them modify their diesel trucks to spew thick, black smoke. Dubbed “rolling coal”, it’s a political/social statement to validate what they see as their “right” to pollute, and it seems politicians in Australia have taken note.

The Abbott Government has now achieved the political equivalent of rollin’ coal, by making Australia the first country on earth to roll back carbon pricing legislation.

“Today’s repeal of laws that price and limit carbon pollution is an historic act of irresponsibility and recklessness.” CEO of The Climate Institute, John Connor.

His hard-right conservative government has made “axing the tax” a relentless priority for the last four years, and has finally succeeded with the help of crossbench senators from the mining billionaire Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party.

The move was immediately dubbed a “catastrophic failure of the political system” and a “generational failure of leadership” which will make Australia an international pariah, but hope remains that this will be a pyrrhic victory. Strong support for key clean energy and climate bodies remains, and senate negotiations may see the building blocks of an emissions trading scheme (ETS) survive.

The Labor party has confirmed it will take an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to the 2016 election, and the Palmer United Party (PUP) has proposed an amendment to the repeal bills for a zero dollar ETS, to be introduced, and scaled up as Australia’s trading partners take action.

“By choosing to dismantle carbon pricing we’re choosing to dismantle the low-cost way of getting to whatever carbon targets we have, and we’re choosing to stand outside an increasing tendency of the rest of the world to go in this direction.” Professor Ross Garnaut.

Today’s landmark backwards step will isolate Australia politically in the lead up to the G20, Ban Ki-Moon and UNFCCC meetings later this year. Moreover it will compromise its ability to modernise and clean up its dirty economy. Labor opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of “Sleepwalking the country into an environmental and economic disaster”, and it is clear from the attacks on renewable energy and support for coal that his government does not understand that the fossil industry is the new subprime danger.

The government may have succeeded in killing the carbon tax, but it was undeniably doing its job to cut emissions. Put simply, pollution is declining in a growing economy, and doing so without impacting household budgets considering the significant compensation handed out to cover carbon pricing-associated rises.

The Abbott government also does not speak for all Australians,the majority of which support climate action and want it now because they trust the science. Australians are already experiencing increases in extreme weather events, suffering through angry summers, seeing bushfires strike with increasing frequency and intensity, and understand that the driest continent on earth next to Antarctica is drying out further thanks to our emissions.

There is no way to avoid paying for carbon pollution. Either polluters pay for their emissions, taxpayers pay for polluter emissions, or everybody suffers the severe costs of climate change.

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