The ETS wipes 7 years off my life and perhaps yours too.

Many individuals and organisations – such as CarbonetiX – are passionate about reducing carbon emissions. CarbonetiX exists to reduce carbon emissions. And we have helped our customers cut their carbon. Many individuals and organisations are similar to us. We believe that Australia and the world must make massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions not by 2050 but NOW.

But under the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme our passion, effort, intellect, capital, time, risk, over-time, learning, sleepless nights, stamina, ingenuity, research, education, sacrifice, persistence, investment appears as though it will come to nought. Zip. Nada. Zero.

We do a lot of work with local government. Many local governments have committed to ambitious carbon reduction targets, and some are making large investments to achieve this. There are some tremendously passionate and dedicated people in local government giving their all to this. I’m sorry to say this, but thanks to the ETS it appears as though your council’s efforts may be in vain. Given that your blood sweat and tears may make no difference how do you feel?

I’m grateful to Ian Westmore for commenting on a blog post I made earlier this week and making this clear to me.

For seven years I have slaved away under the impression that somehow my contribution was making a difference. That I, along with many others, could help Australia cut its greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Not by a paltry 5% by 2020.

Three or four years ago now I was very disappointed when the Victorian government extended the life of the Hazelwood Power Station – Australia’s most carbon inefficient major power generator, which produces between 12 to 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas a year. That’s an awful lot of carbon. I had done quite a lot of work for the Sustainable Energy Authority Victoria (SEAV) on more efficient street lighting. It was great to be able to show how a well designed T5 fluorescent street light was viable as a substitute for a “flower pot” mercury vapour street light – yet only used one third the power. These T5s are now starting to be rolled out as mercury vapour replacements. But I remember feeling how all that effort – and in fact how the entire budget of the SEAV – was effectively futile if the same government had extended Hazelwood.

And now the ETS has come along. And in effect the way the ETS is designed its unlikely that anything more than a 5% carbon reduction on 2000 levels will be achieved. In effect any electricity voluntarily saved by anyone becomes tradeable by the nations power generators, which are part of the ETS. The electricity I help my customers save through energy efficiency and energy conservation, the electricity you might save by putting solar panels on your roof – this all translates into carbon savings at the point of generation – the power stations of the nation. The power stations – which are the nations largest carbon polluters – can then sell that carbon saved to other major industries under the carbon trading scheme, who may then chose to increase their emissions.

Ian Westmore has explained this in his comments on my blog post of 10 February, and Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute also provides an excellent explanation on the Inside Story blog. This explains it much better than I have. 

Right now I am in shock, and am still struggling to understand the immediate consequences of this to my customers, my business, my children and the last seven years of my life.

In effect the ETS is throwing down the gauntlet to anyone wanting to save the planet. Its saying “We, the government of Australia don’t believe Australia should cut its emissions by more than 5%. We dare you to try to achieve a bigger cut than this.”

Given the disincentive of the ETS, there are only two ways that I can see Australia achieving significant greenhouse gas savings. Both of them should be pursued.

  1. It becomes accepted across Australia by the vast majority of individuals that producing carbon is morally repugnant. That the stigma associated with carbon pollution is such that the major polluters voluntarily aim to achieve large cuts, and do not take advantage of the ETS. 
  2. We use our ingenuity and brains to come up with highly cost effective ways of saving energy, producing carbon-free energy, and marketing these solutions. Good looking technologies that are so cost effective that it’s a no-brainer not to install them. That its financially stupid not to use them. That are cool. A light bulb that uses half the power of a compact fluorescent light bulb, lasts twice as long, and costs as much as an incandescent. A solar system that costs $500 installed and powers your whole house. Electricity storage systems that are cheap. Electric cars, trucks and buses using all that cheap solar power that cost less to buy than petrol, diesel or LPG vehicles and much less to run. Building retrofits that take less than two years to pay off and halve power use.

There may be a third way that should also be pursued. I understand that the proposed ETS legislation has yet to go through parliament. This legislation should be amended so that it doesn’t limit our carbon savings to 5%. Lobby for this change.

Frustrated trying to cut your company's carbon footprint?

It is a complex and critical job.

We know we all need to get results faster.

A new guide to speed up your results has been written to help you.

Download and read our free report CARBON CONSERVATION GUIDEBOOK, written by leading Energy Efficiency Engineer Bruce Rowse. Bruce is sharing with you the "secrets" to Effective Energy Conservation, and how to avoid frustration and marginal results.

Tags: , ,

4 Responses to “The ETS wipes 7 years off my life and perhaps yours too.”

  1. richard Says:

    The federal government has justy announced, as quietly as possible, that it is having an inquiry into whether we should realy on the ETS to tackle cliamte change. The short answer, is ‘not unless the targets are based on the best science’.

    The problem is that once the government has decided on am emmission target, and gives away the requisite number of permits to the big polluters, then that is exactly the amount of pollution we will have. not a kilo more, not a kilo less.

    If you want to be able to reduce emissions through your own actions then you will have to make a submission to the Commonwealth Parliament’s House of Representatives Economcis Committee inquiry - you dont need to say much, just tell them you think it is absurd that under the proposed scheme that no matter how much your household or business reduces its energy use the level of Australian emissions wont fall at all.

  2. Bruce Rowse Says:

    Thanks Richard,

    Is that the Standing Committe on Economics?

    Committee Secretary
    Standing Committee on Economics
    PO Box 6021
    House of Representatives
    Parliament House
    Phone: 61 2 6277 4587
    Fax: 61 2 6277 4774

  3. James Bramwell Says:

    It is a truly horrible situation you have been placed in here. I feel your pain obviously. I discovered this ‘Hole’ in the ETS back in November last year after reading an interview with Professor Alan Pears in which he was asked “Do you think that the proposed Carbon Reduction Pollution Scheme will be effective in achieving the dramatic emissions reductions required to tackle climate change?”

    His response was – “No. The cap will not reflect the science, which tells us that very large cuts must be made quickly. Indeed, I am very concerned that the trading scheme proposed at the moment will have a perverse impact on voluntary action. For example, once the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is introduced, actions such as buying solar cells, buying Green Power and saving energy will not cut Australia’s emissions – the cap will set the reduction level. Instead, these actions will simply free up more of the permits for large emitters to buy more cheaply. Basically, if I cut the number of emission permits needed to cover my energy service requirements, that leaves more permits available for others. Professor Garnaut, in his Draft Report, acknowledged that an emissions trading scheme could ‘cannibalise’ voluntary action such as Green Power. I am campaigning for the government to add a clause that actually reduces the cap by the amount of certified voluntary abatement each year. To be honest I have been astounded at the lack of interest among policy makers to address this disempowering aspect of emissions trading.”

    Also interesting is that when James Hansen was recently asked whether he supported the protests over the building of a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport. His response was not what you would expect. Instead of getting behind the protesters he simply said -

    “Coal is 80% of the planet’s problem, … You have to keep your eye on the ball and not waste your efforts. The number one enemy is coal and we should never forget that.”

    Remember there is only ONE number that matters in this debate, and that is the level humanity stabilizes its emissions at. Apply the Pareto rule.

    So in a way I am happy you have come to this realisation now. I’ve had a bit of a head start on looking at ways around this ridiculous situation we have been placed in. The only way I can see around it is to engage in unaccredited offsets and make the burning of coal an unacceptable source of electricity to the majority of the population. Coal is 80% of the problem, Victoria has 600 years worth of it.

    I had an interesting discussion with 3 science writers last weekend in which I asked why climate change isn’t getting more coverage in the media and why sceptics who number in the tens are given more page space than the thousands who might actually be qualified to comment in our nations’ newspapers. Their unanimous and automatic response was that unless there is an argument – there is no story as far as editors are concerned. Well here is the argument good sir editors! Millions of Australian’s have been told ‘they can make a difference and stop dangerous climate change’ (loosely quoted from the Victorian Government’s Black Balloon advertisements). Well the ETS in its current form is basically saying ‘for every black balloon you pop through your efforts, we take that balloon and give it to our nation’s biggest polluters. Thank you very much for playing though Winston.’

    This is an argument that needs to transcend the usual ‘Greenpeace/ACF/the progressives say one thing, Industry groups/ACA/the conservatives say another and the government draws the line somewhere in between’ way policy is usually written. See even sceptics like say Andrew Bolt would have to realise that in a democracy, people should be able to make decisions and choices based on what they believe is right. Even though he doesn’t believe that carbon emissions are an issue; he must admit that people must have the right to act on their own beliefs and not have their actions ‘cannibalised.’

    When I read that Professor Alan Pears’ opinion on the ETS I became interested in joining the campaign ‘for the government to add a clause that actually reduces the cap by the amount of certified voluntary abatement each year.’ I tried to call his RMIT office but couldn’t get through, I emailed Environment Victoria and tried a few little things but there didn’t seem to be much momentum to the campaign that I could find so I dropped it. A few months down the track, people like Richard Denniss are on board and I’m sure thousands more people are connecting the dots and finding the picture looks disturbingly ugly.

    So Bruce my perhaps naive view is that you need to take all the pain and frustration created by the realisation that the 7 years you put into building Carbonetix and results you have worked so hard to get are currently under threat of being rendered worthless in terms of their impact on climate change. You need to take ALL of this and use it to create something that causes everyone you have helped over the last 7 years to spit coffee all over their keyboard when they read it. As they are shaking their keyboard dry they are saying, ‘no this cannot be, I have to do something to change this, what can I do?’ I’ll leave it to you to decide what this will be.

    This Sunday as part of the Sustainable Living Festival, Peter Christoff and Alan Pears will be giving a presentation on ‘Fixing the Flaws in Australia’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme’ in the think tent from 12 till 12.50 on this exact issue.

    I’ll be there, I hope it will be the start of something, spread the word.


  4. Heartburn Home Remedy Says:

    Hey, nice tips. Perhaps I’ll buy a bottle of beer to the man from that forum who told me to go to your site :)

Leave a Reply