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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brian Walters on Emission permit property rights and the CPRS

The carbon emission targets and the compromises to the fossil fuel industry have been well criticised in the Rudd Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. But what hasn't been made clear is that the emissions permits granted under the scheme become effective property rights that will make it much more difficult for future Governments to ratchett up the targets or change the scheme when more effective action is required. Brian Walters, a prominent senior legal counsel in Melbourne and past President of Liberty Victoria, outlines the problems in the CPRS, particularly on emission permits as property rights.

Brian is standing as a candidate for the Greens for the seat of Melbourne in the upcoming 2010 state election.

I videoed his speech at a picket of Peter Batchelor, Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, who was about to attend a $3000 a head Victorian Coal Industry conference. I took the time to transcribe the speech, so you can Read or watch:

Brian Walters on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS)

It's great to have you all here, and I say all because it is great to have our numbers augmented with the Victoria police who brought along the equine support - thanks for coming - it's great to have you here and no doubt supporting our cause.

The CPRS. Some people say that the Greens are hypocritical for not supporting the CPRS. They say, "well look, this scheme is a step in the right direction, it's better than nothing! We ought to at least support that!"

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, or the Continued Polluting Regardless Scheme, is worse than nothing at all and it will not be supported by the Greens at any time. Not in this form.

First thing we have to say about the scheme is, and we all know, the targets. They are scandalous! And that is because they have been set by polluters, not by scientists. We are going to pay out as Jesmine said about $24billion at least to big carbon as part of this scheme. $24billion. That means its the first source of revenue in history in Australia which will run at a loss.

And what are we getting from all this money we are paying out to big carbon? Well, according to Treasury modelling, nothing! There won't be any reducton in carbon pollution in Australia. What we will get will be brought in and imported from overseas, and that won't be much anyway.

We are giving major concessions to coal. For the first five years they will be given concessions of course which will give them a windfall in profits and encourages the use of coal. The energy intensive trade exposed industries will get far more: they get 25% free permits - this is industries like aluminium smelting - 25% free permits going up to 45% in 2020. In other words, we are actually encouraging the expansion of major carbon pollution by this scheme.

[Crowd interjection: Corporate Welfare!]

The exact opposite of what we want to achieve.

One of the things about this scheme which I'm not sure has had much coverage, but in my view is the worst part of the scheme, is that it makes it impossible for future Governments to ratchett up the targets. That's because under a section of the legislation the carbon pollution permits, won't just be permits, they will be property rights.

You've all seen 'The Castle' and you know the Government of Australia under the constitution can't acquire property except on just terms. So you give this property right to carbon polluters - it's a social evil - give them the right to do this evil thing and make it a property right and it means that future governments down the track can't acquire those property rights or diminish those property rights except on just terms.

Now that is scandalous. And it is not what was proposed by Garnault or by anybody. We are left with a scheme that will make things worse, and it will not be supported by the Greens.

They are digging a hole, they are digging it deeper, they won't stop digging, and they can't get out of it.

They want to take us down into the graveyard caused by their coal mines, and they are happy about that so long as they can clutch onto their riches on the way down.

The climate crisis is the great moral challenge of our age Kevin Rudd, just up the road today. It is. And we need some leadership to confront it. And leadership is not doing no more and no less than other countries are doing, and in fact we are doing less. The solutions are available and they are inspiring. We owe it to our children and to the planet to adopt those solutions.


Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004. I am not a member of the Greens or any political party.