Battle lines form over carbon pricing

PwC sustainability and climate change director Jonathan Grant said at a recent event in London that carbon pricing is the best hope for a “silver bullet to tackle emissions growth”.Grant said a carbon pricing scheme was “not getting the attention it needs in the climate talks”, despite wide-spread support from business and governments.“At present, 73 governments have proposed using market mechanisms to achieve their Paris targets, so there is an obvious need for common standards and the ability to link systems together,” Grant said. “If a resolution isn’t reached at COP21, there is a risk that businesses will face a complex and costly patchwork of climate regulation around the world which will invariably raise concerns about competitiveness.”At the same event global resource management concern Veolia, called for a corporate carbon tax, set at between $45-63 per tonne of CO2 to be implemented at the COP 21 climate talks during November and December.The Abbott government scrapped Australia’s carbon tax last year, a tax priced at just $23/t, with plans to raise it to $27/t over time.The pricing was part of a broad energy reform package called the Clean Energy Plan, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2000 levels by 2050. The scheme was successful. Nine months after the introduction of the pricing scheme, Australia’s emissions of CO2 from electricity generation had fallen to a 10-year low, with coal generation down 11% from 2008 to 2009, although some commentators said that was due to falling electricity demand.But Greenpeace has again rubbished calls by ten of the world’s largest oilers for a global carbon price.“Carbon pricing is a costly distraction from meaningful action on emissions. While it appears progressive, the devil is in the detail,” Greenpeace campaigner Charlie Kronick said. “The oil industry’s support for climate action appears conditional on those actions having zero impact on its core business or its plans for unchecked expansion. “By calling for carbon pricing, Shell’s actually suggesting we wait around for 190 countries to agree on a coordinated approach before taking action, which would take more time than we have left to tackle climate change. “Effective carbon pricing effectively buys the industry more time to continue business as usual.”Greenpeace says calls by Shell for a pricing signal are “greenwashing” because even the most cursory analysis of the actions of Shell or the industry show the core assumption underlying its business plans: global temperature increases of between 3.6C and 5.3C, its lobbying against measures to mitigate climate change; and the inadequacy of its own proposals.Shell and the International Energy Agency both expect emissions will be consistent with the back-calculated 450 parts per million carbon 2C scenario.Former UK climate envoy John Ashton has described a climate response based primarily on a carbon price as a mechanism that will deliver only marginal change. “Politically it serves as a brake on ambition not a stimulus […] to hard caps on emissions,” he said.According to a seminal report on climate and health from The Lancet, from June, the time for coal-to-gas switching has “almost certainly passed” if the world wants to avoid dangerous climate change.

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