Why Direct Action won’t work

Australia’s big polluters will set their own emission limits as part of the Direct Action Policy.

Why Direct Action won’t work

As part of the Government’s launch of its climate change initiative, the Emission Reduction Fund (ERF), a new Direct Action policy paper has been released to swathe of scathing criticism. The new policy will basically allow the country’s biggest polluters to set their own pollution limits – possibly rendering emissions control useless.

Energy Program Director at the Grattan Institute Tony Wood, believes the measures laid out in the policy paper will not be effective. “The safeguard mechanism was always a critical element of the Direct Action plan, but there is nothing in this safeguard mechanism that puts any absolute limit on a whole range of sectors,” he said.

There are concerns that the system, designed so that no one company can be caught going over its prescribed emissions thresholds, could make it difficult for regulators to police carbon caps. In effect, Australia’s largest polluters, or companies which release more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon emissions into the atmosphere per year, will be able to set a benchmark to the equivalent of its highest levels of carbon emissions in the last five years, effectively rendering climate control useless.

The electricity sector, which is responsible for one-third of the country’s total carbon emissions may be given special exemptions, because, according to the paper, “low-cost electricity was important for the competitiveness of other industries.” Environment Minister Greg Hunt defended the proposal for the electricity sector as a “measure supported by the industry.”

Companies that do exceed the thresholds may have to purchase offset penalties, but Mr Wood feels that harsher penalties are required to make this paper even remotely effective. “For a penalty to work it has to be a deterrent, and for it to be a significant penalty for a big polluter fines would have to be in the tens of millions of dollars,” he said.

What do you think? Are Australia’s biggest polluters being given a free rein? Is this Direct Action Policy even worth pursuing, considering the safeguards can be set so high as to not be breached, and the penalties for doing so are virtually non-existent at this point?


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    31st Mar 2015
    Leon, you have started your article with a statement that is not necessarily true... therefore it is your opinion. It should have been a quote. Very poor journalism. Take care!
    31st Mar 2015
    Do you understand that the RETs have been reduced....after sustained lobbying from the fossil fuel industry.
    The game is the destruction of renewables, orchestrated by by Energy Australia, Origin Energy and AGL, the executioner being Tony Abbott and his disreoutable government.
    31st Mar 2015
    Direct action could not be less effective than a carbon tax.
    31st Mar 2015
    What a load of crap. The Carbon Tax was already working when it was repealed. Repealed for ONE reason only: payback for services rendered.
    FYI: Direct Action is about KILLING OFF RENEWABLES. Known as corruption at work!
    31st Mar 2015
    Direct Action? What a con. BS meant to deceive the feeble minded.
    I have been reading articles from John Hewson in the past couple of weeks. For those who cannot remember John Hewson was a past leader of the Liberal Party. Hewson makes the point that the repeal of the Carbon Tax was engineered by Energy Australia, Origin Energy and AGL. Now the same companies are lobbying to destroy RET's so that they (and their coal interests) can pollote on forever.
    I have been writing about the corrupt partnership between this government and the fossil fuel industry for a few years. During this time the government sponsored trolls on this site have been poo-pooing the truth as makw believe.
    I encourage Australians to do something to block the coal interests from achieving their perverse aims: to prop up their inflated bank accounts by creating a monopoly which Australians badly. The reality is that electricity prices are going to fall if renewables are not killed off. All that we are going to get is mega pollution, higher electricity prices and future decimation when the rest of the world is clean whilst third world Australia is excluded from being competitive. Give me strength.
    My immediate action: not to do business with the above criminalnirganisations who conspire with the most dishonest government in living memory.
    31st Mar 2015
    Increases in carbon dioxide may have an effect on the climate but it is ridiculous to call it a 'pollutant'. CO2 is a colourless, odourless gas which is essential to human life. You might just as well call oxygen a pollutant.
    31st Mar 2015
    I would like to see someone provide evidence in a rational and sensible manner that proves what, and how, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide do to become a pollutant. I do not mean that sitting in your car while the engine is running in your closed and sealed garage is proof that carbon dioxide (or monoxide) is damaging the earth's atmosphere. If, as the global warming hysterics would have us believe, that the Earth's atmosphere is suffering because of carbon emissions, please show us how this is done. Never mind spouting quotations from non climate scientists and pundits like Tim Flannery and Al Gore, Or from any scientist that depends on the generosity of government grants to fund his or her studies or institutions that might suffer financially should they not support the government viewpoint. Don't bother to remind me that 97% (or whatever the figure is today) of scientists agree that the climate is warming and that humans are responsible. Wasn't it in the 1600's the "correct" scientific view was that the Sun revolved around the Earth because the Pope said the Bible said it was so? They sure knew how to deal with dissenters and heretics in those days and kept firewood merchants in business, too. We need more sensible scientific explanation and not hysterical ranting, please.
    3rd Apr 2015
    It is my understanding that most reputable scientists do say that carbon is causing global warming. Others how do not are generally bought by the polluting companies to come up with the opposite.

    Bit like the Abbott government rigging the various enquiry committes with their believers to come up with the goods that fit their policy directions.
    5th Apr 2015
    You raise an interesting point, W. I too have seen the historic cigarette companies' ads which told us that 9 out of 10 doctors recommended smoking "Brand X Cigarettes". We all know how that turned out.

    So if, as you suggest, each side of the global warming argument has their own gang of hired scientific stooges to spruik their points of view, who can the average punter believe? Those that depend on government grants to fund their pet projects as funnelled to them through our universities and thus keep their jobs? Or does Gina Reinhart and those of her ilk have their own gangs of "hired scientific guns" to promote their point of view?

    Scientific debate has been hijacked by the paranoid hysterics of both sides so it looks as if we will have to trust our insincts. That is until low lying island states like the Maldive Islands and other island states are permanently inundated by the surrounding oceans, (which would convince me that global warming is indeed a threat), we should have a wait, watch and see approach to the debate.
    Tom Tank
    31st Mar 2015
    The rest of the World is laughing at Australia for some many things although in this case they probably cannot quite believe how stupid we are.
    31st Mar 2015
    As a regular overseas traveller I have to agree. We are indeed a laughing stock. It is so embarrassing.
    31st Mar 2015
    31st Mar 2015
    The laughing at Australia didn't start until Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister and reversed so many of the policies that existed prior to 2007.
    31st Mar 2015
    Of course it won't work. This just the government cost cutting. Self regulation has never worked in the past and is unlikely to work in the future. Greedy corporations are concerned about profit. I have argued this for many decades and supported more resources and trained personnel to be involved in the monitoring and education for e.g. Work Safe, EPA, Industry Training, etc. Policy e.g. accredited licences are a way the government is trying to conn us that it is interested in improving pollution standards and education of the public. Accredited licences allow officers to respond to an incident and not be involved with regular monitoring. while there is no doubt that there are responsible corporations out there with high standards, there are a lot that aren't and many are multinationals who don't really care. I know what I am speaking about as I worked in that area before retirement and despite those who argued they did not want random visits. Of course they did not. They would prefer an appointment and possibly a week's notice. In my experience those were in the minority, but often in some of the most dangerous areas. The majority I found met you with a welcome and wanted to discuss some particular issue they were having problems with or were seeking an outsiders view of how it was seen that their processes were working
    Chris B T
    31st Mar 2015
    Back in 1960's 70's there was a product called " Washed Coal " should try that PEARLER AGAIN.
    There is no and will be no safe use of Coal, taxing the Product dosn't make it safe.
    Just like Taxing Tobacco it didn't make it safer.( Still a Blight on The Health System)
    Until you seriously look to some other form of fuel or method of power generation the problem is the ELEPHANT in the way Being Coal.
    31st Mar 2015
    I dare anyone to support the idea of letting polluters set their own limits. Come on you one-eyed brigade. Don't be frightened. Give it your best shot. Tell us what a great idea it is.
    Chris B T
    31st Mar 2015
    At what point I was for the POLLUTERS.
    This stoneage material should have been removed from Power Generation last century.
    Coal has ALL THE GOVERNMENT & OPPOSITON AS THE saviour to our
    REMOVE IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE the better off we will be and the future.
    There is No Undo or Delete Button, only consequences for the stupidity.
    31st Mar 2015
    If polluters are allowed to set their own emission levels --------- ha! ha! ha! gurgle! gurgle! chortle! he! he! he! he! OMG LOL! Thrrrrrupppppp RIP. I don't think this even deserves discussion. I hope the government brings in Direct Action so we can use our direct action to get rid of them and put in a government who will actually bring back a carbon price or introduce an ETS. To allow polluters to set their own levels of pollution would tell you exactly what this government thinks of us, their constituents.
    sunny boy
    31st Mar 2015
    ... indeed ... shades of Dracula running the Blood Bank ... mingled with ... Satan stoking his "coal fired" Inferno ... in a word ... " Staggering " !
    31st Mar 2015
    What a joke. Just like the Mining Resources Tax, the rules for which formulated by the miners. And how much did that raise?
    31st Mar 2015
    Don't forget who was in government when they dreamed that one up! No wonder the world laughed at Australia's ineptitude then.
    1st Apr 2015
    I think the important thing to remember Australia produces only about 1% of the world total man made CO2 emmissions

    So whatever we do we cannot reduce The CO2 emmissions by more than !% whether it be through tax or direct action

    I think other pollution is more important than CO2 emissions which needs to be put under control.
    1st Apr 2015
    The Climate Scientists have presented fact after fact to the world proving carbon is damaging the atmosphere. Not sure what else they can do - except keep presenting the facts. It is not a matter of what you believe. It is fact.

    If people prefer not to listen to the Specialists, if people prefer to listen to unqualified crackpots, no amount of facts will change their minds.

    What happens if we decide the experts are wrong ? We let the polluters do what they like. Then, hey presto, we find the experts were right all along & our air is damaged beyond repair. Then what ?

    Or we can go with the Experts, stop the polluting. If they are wrong, no harm is done. We just have cleaner air. What on earth is wrong with that ?

    Surely no-one has the right to make our air dirty ? Or our water, or our soil or our food ??
    1st Apr 2015
    As mentioned above, I would like to know what and how carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide pollute the atmosphere. With so many scientists presenting facts that these gases are "bad, why is it that none of them can explain how they do this. Instead they bleat in unison about the evils of carbon like the Sheep in Orwell's Animal Farm.

    As far as other forms of pollution are concerned, education has a major role to play. Anti litter campaigns and getting people off their butts and out of their cars to improve health and cut down on fuel consumption are examples. These are a couple of things that can be done nationally, on a personal level.

    But the public needs to face up to the fact that blethering on about renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power (how long have we been getting ear-bashed about that, now) just do not compete with coal fired power stations in Australia. Whinge all you want about coal power and the unfortunate side effects it produces, but the only viable alternative is still nuclear power, as used in the Northern Hemisphere. Americans and Europeans are scratching their heads wondering why Australia, with its reserves of uranium, have not started building nuclear power plants. that is, when they are not laughing at us for still allowing the Greenies to dominate the nuclear debate.
    Chris B T
    1st Apr 2015
    In the Ninetieth century we were using thermal coal as the main power generation for most machines.
    Morse code, Flags and hand lever moving signals as well as whistles for communications.
    We have come leaps and bounds in communications which is very impressive to the past, why are we still stuck with thermal coal.
    We don't use steam trains any more.
    The coal industry have such a control over our government, The Direct Action Policy is
    to be seen doing something without the will to change.
    At this rate they will be talking about this in 50years time.
    What is low cost when you leave the costs for regeneration, distruction of agricultrual land and in particular the Great Barrier Reef with the coal loaders and ships with water
    ballast being dumped, we havn't included CO2 yet in the costs.
    The Government talks about future costs in areas when it wants to but exclude others.
    5th Apr 2015
    Carbon has a negligble effect on the atmosphere acc. to indendent researches, not politically funded ones!
    Also known for decades is that increased activity of solar flares on the sun's surface as is in recent times, cause extremes in temperatures, hence causing climate change in specific parts of the earth.
    This has been indicated by extremely cold and warm conditions!
    Of course, it is also a great opportunity for politicians to massage or manipulate the figures to justify raising money in the budget via taxes!
    I do not get sucked in easily and it's interesting how masses of people can act like a mob of sheep like the Greens.
    5th Apr 2015
    Nuclear is NOT an alternative for energy and in fact the most dangerous form!
    Amazing how this is not in the news much yet it is the GREATEST THREAT TO THE EXISTENCE OF MANKIND!
    We do not have to wait for Russia or one of the Islamic nations to drop a nuclear bomb because it is already destroying our environment BIG TIME!
    Just check out the facts on Helen Caldicott's website or google it!
    Chernobyl, FukushimaIndia and the U.S. already are having issues with increasing still births and increasing numbers of genetic deformities which are permanent and passed on through generations!
    Fukushima nuclear power stations are still leaking radioactive contaminated water into the Pacific and are unable to stop it!
    This is affecting sea life and has moved via currents to California and moving south and around to tha Atlantic and other oceans!
    Increase in cancers is the other noticeable effect and eventually our foodchain will be contaminated with radioactive isotopes and the possible extinction of all forms of life. Maybe earth will end up like mars, who knows?

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