Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Andrew Burger headshot

Australia Poised to Enact Historic National Carbon Tax

While controversy and debate regarding emissions trading and carbon offset schemes continues, Australia is poised to pass a historic national carbon tax. Narrowly passed in the Australian Parliament's lower house by two votes, the carbon tax bill is now due up for vote in the nation's Senate.

As it would establish a sliding schedule of tax rates for Australia's largest 500 CO2 emitters, the 'carbon tax' actually seems to be a carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions tax rather than a carbon tax, which is typically levied on hydrocarbon fuels according to the amount of CO2 they contain.
In any event, both are viewed simpler, more direct and less costly means of putting a price on CO2 emissions, one of the key greenhouse gasses that contributes to global warming. Conservation and climate science groups, along with labor unions and the Greens Party, are urging the Senate to pass the legislation quickly, while Australia's big business interests continue to oppose its passage.

The bill also aims to cut taxes and increase government pension payments, as well as spur clean and renewable energy investment and provide assistance to some affected industries, including steel.

Arguing that the controversial legislation would be a boon to both the Australian environment and the Australian economy, the Greens Party, conservation, climate science and labor groups have joined in supporting the carbon tax bill and in urging elected representatives to pass it.

United 'For'

The Australia Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) is urging quick passage of the measure, along with The Climate Institute, WWF Australia, The Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australia Youth Climate Coalition.

The Australian Conservation Foundation views passing the bill as a historic illustration of "people power" and the culmination of a decade-long drive to get those industries and companies involved in exploring for, producing, and using carbon fuels and producing greenhouse gas emissions to pay their fair share of their true cost, according to an online Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) report.

Moreover, enacting the national carbon tax would "unleash A$14.8 billion (US$14.6 billion) of opportunity," Dave Oliver, AMWU's national secretary, was quoted as saying.

ACTU president Ged Kearney told reporters in Canberra that passage of the bill would provide the certainty needed for employers, education and training organizations to "get on with the job of skilling up our workforce so they can take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are going to be created," according to the online SMH report.

"Today our MPs have voted yes to creating a stronger economy, yes to new jobs in clean industries and yes to giving our wildlife a fighting chance," commented WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman in a statement.

United Against

Opponents see it as a bad deal, saying that it will backfire and cost the Australian economy jobs and growth, and that the bill would be of little significance without an international agreement on taxing carbon content of fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.

Opponents, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and conservative think-tank The Institute of Public Affairs continue in their efforts to have the bill voted down in the Senate. ACC chief executive Peter Anderson said that passing the bill was a "futile" effort given that lack of an internationally binding agreement on a carbon tax or greenhouse gas emissions.

The Institute of Public Affairs' director of climate change policy said that Australian's will be in for a rude surprise when they realize how much the carbon tax will cost them, according to the online SMH report.

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

Read more stories by Andrew Burger

More stories from Investment & Markets