The Australia Institute welcomed the Morrison Government’s $2 billion bushfire recovery fund announcement, but questions why regular taxpayers will be paying for it.
TAI says a levy on fossil fuel producers would be a more appropriate approach.
Back in mid-December, TAI released details of its proposed National Climate Disaster Fund (NCDF) that would be funded through a $1 per tonne levy on carbon emissions associated with all coal, gas and oil produced in Australia.
TAI estimates the fund would raise around $1.5 billion a year based on current levels of production. Coal mining would be the biggest contributor to the fund – almost $1.2 billion.
“A modest levy on fossil fuel producers would help to shift the economic burden of these disasters from regular Australians to the coal and gas companies that are fuelling the climate crisis,” said Deputy Director of TAI Ebony Bennett.
The use of the word “modest” in relation to the levy is bang-on as it doesn’t come close to covering all the impacts of fossil fuels. But the levy isn’t considered the end game; just a “next step” as TAI mentions.
$1 A Tonne – Grab It At This Low Price Glencore
Increased, prolonged and/or more severe natural disasters aren’t the only nasty results from the contents of the fossil fuel sector’s Pandora’s box. For example, there’s also the human health impacts associated with toxins spewed into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. The health costs of coal alone have been estimated at around $4 billion per year in Australia.
While the $1 a tonne might go some way to addressing some of the damage caused by climate change, it doesn’t solve the root cause – it’s just paying (very little) to pollute. TAI acknowledges fossil fuel producers will hardly feel the impact of it, so it’s not about to bring about major change on its own.
These companies can certainly afford it – some pay little or no income tax.
In its proposal, TAI provides the example of Glencore, one of Australia’s largest coal producers. TAI says in 2016/17, Glencore had total income of $14,970,581,402, a taxable income of $3,333 and $1,000 tax payable – how good is that?
Beyond the proposed National Climate Disaster Fund, what is crystal clear is much more will need to be done and more rapidly to transition from filthy energy sources to the prosperity, energy security, better environmental and health outcomes that renewable energy + storage can help bring about.
In his coal show-and-tell in Parliament in February 2017, yet-to-be-PM Scott Morrison stated:
“This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you”.
Coal can, does and will continue to hurt us. And being fearful of its impacts is justified.