Showing posts with label glasgow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label glasgow. Show all posts

Monday, October 25, 2021

Morrison's deal: Nationals rewarded for agreeing to harm the regions

Let me be sure I’ve got this right. Scott Morrison is ending his Coalition’s deep divisions over climate change by agreeing to pay billions in regional boondoggles in return for the Nationals refusing to lift their veto of any increase in Australia’s commitment to reduce emissions by 2030.

The usual way blackmail works is that the blackmailer returns to you something you really value in return for you paying the blackmailer an arm and a leg.

But the way Morrison’s deal with Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals will work is that Morrison – or rather, the taxpayer – spends billions on projects of doubtful value in return for the Nats’ agreeing to nothing more than symbolism: to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, which will be after all the signatories are dead and gone.

The first point is that agreeing to net zero emissions in 29 years’ time is a decoy and a fig leaf if that’s all you do. To make it real you have to make a commitment you can be held to: a much bigger progress payment in the next nine years to 2030.

That, of course, is what the Glasgow conference is about. The major countries agreed on net zero months ago (as have all our premiers and many of our business and industry groups). That’s just the price of admission to the room.

What you do in the room is proudly announce the big increase in your commitment over what you promised at the Paris meeting in 2016. Those few leaders unwilling to commit to a significant increase will be pilloried as “free-riders” (aka bludgers) on the other countries – and rightly so. You’re a brave man, Scott.

But the second point is more important: all of us will be worse off if Australia’s selfish delinquency damages the global effort to limit the extent of global warming, but the biggest losers will be the small businesses and voters the Nats’ claim to represent – the regions.

The regions will be the biggest losers because, of all the industries, agriculture will be the hardest hit by continuing global warming. Farmers’ loss of freedom to keep clearing land will the least of their worries.

But the regions lose also because we don’t get on with expanding our renewable energy industries – most of which happens in the regions – and lose any “first-mover advantage” in establishing the new generation of manufacturing industries processing hydrogen, clean steel, clean aluminium, and even clean cement using all-renewable electricity. This, too, will happen in the regions.

That is, we don’t get on with generating the new, well-paid and skilled jobs for mine and gas workers to move on to as the rest of the world stops buying our coal and gas.

The amazingly perverse nature of Morrison’s deal with the Nationals – we pay them for refusing to allow us to get on with protecting ourselves against the world’s turn away from fossil fuels – has been brought to our attention in a study by Matt Saunders and Dr Richard Denniss, of the Australia Institute, All Pain No Gain, released today.

They argue that whatever the final cost of the deal turns out to be – no doubt a lot more than its announced cost – it will be far exceeded by the cost to the economy of us not acting earlier to reduce emissions.

To put it the other way, modelling commissioned from Deloitte Access Economics by the Business Council of Australia finds there would be significant benefits to the economy if we lifted our target to reducing our emissions by 46 per cent by 2030.

Comparing this with other modelling by Deloitte, the authors calculate that the additional benefits over the next 50 years would have a “net present value” (the value in today’s dollars of all the incomings and outgoings over the next 50 years) of more than $210 billion.

Now, I never take modelling results too literally, but the Business Council’s argument does make sense. The higher target leads to increased investment in renewables, which increases growth and jobs, as well as greatly reducing the cost of electricity (because, once you’ve built the plant, the cost of extra solar and wind energy is negligible).

Morrison’s excuse for not increasing the 2030 target is that, without the coming new technology, this would force choices and cost jobs. But he’s got that the wrong way round.

As the Business Council (and the Grattan Institute before it) have explained, forcing the pace in industries where the technology is already well-developed – electricity and electric vehicles – leaves more time for the technology to be developed in other industries.

With friends like the chancers of the National Party, the regions need Morrison to see more sense.

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