Carbon tax an opportunity: Switzer

“From the perspective of industry, it’s essential that we view things like a carbon tax as an opportunity rather than just an impost,” he said at the Brisbane Truck Show recently. “There are plenty of companies around the world making a good business out of ‘clean and green’ ideas. The question for transport operators in Australia is can you find a marketing opportunity for your business from all of this?“If all big companies decide to say ‘what can we do to reduce emissions?’, innovation will come a lot quicker and we’ll be able to repair the damage we’ve done a lot more quickly than most people think.”According to Switzer, once a carbon credit trading system is in place there is a direct financial incentive to innovate, because companies that come up with a way to cut emissions can trade it for credits.“Business will use carbon credits in different ways. For example, a farmer who plants acres and acres of trees or a coal miner that invests in wind power, both could get offset credits to sell to polluters,” he said. “It’s likely that the top 1000 companies will be the ones doing most of the trading in credits, and they’ll have strong incentives to cut emissions, because once you put a price on the ‘third bottom line’ the accountants can quantify what up until now has been an ‘externality’.”Despite being the highest per-capita emitter in the world, Australia is more likely to be a fast follower than a leader in carbon trading, according to Switzer. “Whoever wins the next election, there’s no way a government is going to introduce a policy that will create a competitive disadvantage for Australian manufacturers,” he said. “If the Greens aren’t prepared to make compromises with either party in order to get some sort of system in place, then we may well not see anything come in for another whole term. This kind of uncertainty isn’t good for business, but it’s a possibility.”Switzer said Australian businesses could likely expect to see some sort of emission trading scheme implemented, with or without a carbon tax, in the next three to four years. “The important thing for road transport operators to think about now is how they can turn this into an opportunity to expand their business? Can you promote your green credentials and capture a share of the market that expects that before someone else does?“Venture capital companies are all saying that now is the time to look for ways to innovate and adapt your business. “The global financial crisis may have slowed the development of green innovation, but it’s coming back very quickly. “The companies that do it well will survive and prosper from whatever system comes in. Those who don’t will see their profit margins shrinking.”Volvo Trucks general manager Gary Bone supports Switzer’s views, saying his insights into the potential impact of a carbon tax on the transport industry should be of interest to every operator.“Volvo Trucks has always put minimising environmental impact at the core of our designs, and our customers can be certain that whatever changes come in the next few years, we’ll be ready for them,” he said. “We’ll be monitoring the carbon debate closely and our customers can be sure that we’ll continue to make trucks that remain profitable while meeting or exceeding all regulatory requirements.”

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