Australia’s Carbon Tax Forces Need A Big Comeback

In 2011, Australia became the first major country to place a price on carbon by enacting a Carbon Tax. In the US and around the world, Price-On-Carbon backers heralded Australia as a beacon of hope. Then we just assumed that the Carbon Tax was etched in stone.  Took it for granted.  But recent Australian elections were won by the conservatives (which are oddly called the Liberal Party, but I digress) who ran on a platform of abolishing the Carbon Tax.  Like a sports team on its way to certain victory only to fall behind or lose in disastrous, unexpected fashion, the Carbon Tax forces in Australia need to recover from that punch in the gut and fight back.  GSB explores if they have what it takes.

On September 7, pro Price-On-Carbon forces around the world were dealt a tough blow when Tony Abbott, an avowed opponent of the Carbon Tax in Australia, became Prime Minister.  He has some potential hurdles in the Australian Senate to surmount but there’s a good chance the Carbon Tax will be repealed.  I felt the reverberations from this news a half a world away in NYC because, when I give Climate Reality Project (the grassroots group founded by former VP Al Gore after “An Inconvenient Truth”) slideshows, one of the most upbeat slides in the presentation is one that shows folks in front of Canberra, the Australian capital, celebrating the Carbon Tax (celebrating a tax is hard to imagine but pictures don’t lie!).  Australia was the exemplar of Price-On-Carbon hope–and then, all of a sudden, the hope was dashed.  Should I get rid of that slide, I asked myself.

YES

Pro Carbon Tax event in Canberra, Australia in 2011 after policy was approved by the legislature. (Photo Credit: Australian Conservation Foundation/Belinda Patton)

Flash forward to November 10.  I’m watching (American not Aussie Rules) football at a watering hole on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore. Ravens seemingly have the game won.  I mean it’s over.  The crowd is celebrating.  Up by 7 points and time only for a desperation Hail Mary pass from Bengals QB Andy Dalton to AJ Green from 51 yards away that would tie the game and send it into overtime.  A million to one shot…no way he catches it…and yet…well listen/see for yourselves!

TOUCHDOWN Bengals!  Tie game.  The Ravens and the 65,000+ fans had the collective wind knocked out of them.  A game that was won was instead going into overtime.  All the momentum switched to the Bengals.  No doubt they would ride the proverbial wind at their sails and win in OT.  

AJ Green Leaping Grab

Cincinnati Bengals WR AJ Green (#18) leaps to make game-tying TD catch vs. Baltimore Ravens, sending game into overtime. (Photo Credit: AP)

Well a funny thing happened on the way to the Certain-Ravens-Win-That-Was-Now-A-Sure-Bengals-Victory.  It didn’t happen.  Despite the despair of the fans, despite the loss of positive energy that the team must’ve faced, the Ravens gathered themselves, and summoned the collective intestinal fortitude necessary to overcome the headwinds resulting from Green’s game-turning catch.  The Ravens players and coaches did their jobs and were able to rebound to win the game.

Justin Tucker Celebrates

Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime to beat the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo Credit: USA Today)

There is a lesson in this for the Australian Carbon Tax forces. They’ve just been AJ Green-ed.  But the game isn’t over.  They have to be the Ravens.  Or they have to have a little Blutarsky from Animal House in ‘em (warning: there’s a swear word in that clip). They have to be tough, smart and organized.  More than that, they have to have the fortitude to fight back and win the argument.  It ain’t gonna be easy.

Recent polling shows that 57% of Australians want the Carbon Tax repealed. But a deeper dive reveals that there’s still a strong appetite among Australians to meet their aggressive carbon reduction targets.  And, the people like PM Abbott’s prescription (using taxpayer funds to purchase emissions reductions from polluters, and planting trees) even less than they like the Carbon Tax (12% in favor of Abbott’s position, 16% in favor of Carbon Tax).

So there’s room for a comeback by the Carbon Tax forces.  Perhaps they need to advocate a Cap & Trade system.  Perhaps they need to adjust the formula of the Carbon Tax.  Perhaps they need to rebrand to Price-On-Carbon.  I’ll leave the tactics to the Australians.  But the point is:  They can’t let up.  And they’re not.

According to Melbourne-based writer, blogger and climate activist Andrea Flory, the YES forces (I’ll use YES to represent Carbon Tax/Price On Carbon/Whatever) are in the process of pushing back.  She attended a Climate Change rally in Melbourne in mid-November that drew 30,000 people. The mood was upbeat, with an emphasis on “people power” and “a grassroots movement to build [the momentum] back up through social media” for a price on carbon, said Flory.  She was pleasantly surprised by the broad makeup of the crowd–young and old, wealthy, middle class and lower class.

Melbourne Climate Change Rally

Some of the estimated 30,000 people at a mid-November Climate Change rally in Melbourne, Australia (Photo Credit: Joe Armao)

One rally, of course, does not mean much, but perception is reality.  And if the perception is that the YES forces are in this for the long haul, that they can take a shot and comeback better than ever, then that’s a great early sign as this is a long game, in Australia, the US and everywhere else.  The key in Australia is to build on the Melbourne rally so the Labour and Green politicians see that staking out a YES position is not career suicide.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep that YES slide in my Climate Reality slideshow presentations–and may add one of AJ Green’s catch to boot.

11 thoughts on “Australia’s Carbon Tax Forces Need A Big Comeback”

  1. Nice catch, AJ, but what a titanic fumble by the Australia House. Regardless of where we live, we can’t keep depending on the Senate to bail us out when the lower house drops the ball, metaphorically speaking. Repealing progress is not the way to go.

    1. As an aussie, and someone who wants a /good/ future for the kids of this world, I couldn’t agree more. Luckily the Abbott government is fumbling the ball at every turn at the moment. [And no, I didn't vote for him]. My hope is that the next election will see a lot of hip-pocket voters changing their minds yet again. If we can mobilise social media, and kick Abbott out, we may end up with a far better system than the one we lost. It /can/ happen and it will!

  2. Great post Lew. It’s an interesting question whether it will be easier for Australia to reestablish a price on carbon or for the US to create one in the first place. Perhaps it is better to have had a price on carbon and lost it than never to have had a price on carbon at all.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Eric. I think Vegas has Australia as a solid 6.5 point favorite on getting a price on carbon again over US doing it in the first place. This is mainly because Labour and the Greens can still bottle the current carbon tax in the senate for awhile and support may build in the meantime to keep it. If the carbon tax goes away then all bets are off.

  4. Great article Lew! I’m not super sporty but even I understood the point you were making. Of course you do need to learn some of the Aussie Rules terminology. Like, for example, a high flying catch is called a ‘mark’. :D

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