The Abbott government is raring to implement its Direct Action Policy that would encourage polluters to reduce their emissions by providing them with financial incentives. With the recent release of a white paper explaining the details of the policy, the government has taken a step closer towards fulfilling its goal.
The policy’s centrepiece, the Emissions Reduction Fund, has been given a budget allocation of $2.55 billion spread over four years beginning on July 1, 2014. Although the Coalition and Labour agree on reducing the country’s emissions to 5 per cent lower than 2000 levels, the two parties are not seeing eye-to-eye regarding the mechanism.
Labour is batting that the biggest polluters in the country pay for the amount of pollution that they cause to encourage them to reduce their emissions. In turn, the money goes to the taxpayers helping them deal with price increases particularly electricity. However, the Coalition believes that it is better for businesses to bid for tenders and be compensated for spearheading emission reduction initiatives.
Under the Emission Reduction Fund, businesses will submit bids for projects that will either offset or lower their emissions. The auctions will be handled by the Clean Energy Regulator and is scheduled to begin by the second half of the year.
The Abbott government asserts that it can realise its emissions reductions goal through the Direct Action Policy. Its concept paper said Australia needs to reduce 591 million tonnes of its carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. The country is the 15th largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the world, accounting for 1.3 per cent of the global total.
Electricity generation has the largest share of these emissions, accounting for 35 per cent. The plan to counter this is to give solar panel rebates to low-income families under the Coalition’s proposal, with a limit of 10,000 rebates every year. The Coalition is also committed to ending the $10 billion clean Energy Finance Corporation that supports clean energy projects through a co-financing scheme with the private sector.
Another part of the Direct Action Policy is the putting up of a “Green Army” composed of 15,000 young individuals who will be in charge of environmental conservation projects. The group will be tasked to discharge functions like cleaning of riverbanks, regenerating local parks and re-planting of sand dunes. It will work together with local groups like Landcare and projects will be designed to fit local environment priorities.