The Queensland Premier tells us that her state will be more severely damaged by climate change than will others and that its effects will include:
- deterioration and loss of coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef;
- loss of buildings due to tidal surges and flooding;
- extinction of animal species;
- less rainfall in some areas and loss of surface water and river flows;
- damage to and reduced yield from agriculture and fishing;
- threat to tourism and losses for the hospitality industry; and
- increased demand for services from a rapidly growing population.
In almost the same breath, she tells us that Queensland emits almost a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. This makes Queenslanders responsible for the highest per capita emissions in the world.
Now for the good news. The Premier has proudly announced that three new coal mines will open in Queensland within the next 12 months. She has also raised the levy on coal, increasing government financial dependence on its production. Better still, she assures us there are plans to open more coal mines, ensuring that Queensland remains Australia’s premier exporter of pollution.
As expected from such a zealous leader, Anna Bligh has asked that, when the Australian government introduces an emissions trading scheme, the price of carbon should be initially set as low as possible. She also asks that this initial price remain unchanged for three years and that the worst polluters in Queensland receive special consideration when it comes to issuing free emission permits.
These measures are necessary, she claims, in order to protect the Queensland economy. How? By encouraging existing polluters to remain in Queensland and attracting new ones to become established there? On her own admission, protecting short-term economic advantage is destined to wreak severe longer-term damage to the state economy and increase Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Undaunted, Premier Bligh responds to this criticism with the surprise announcement that her government will reduce Queensland emissions by as much as 30 per cent.
“How?” ask her critics.
“Simple,” replies the Premier, “Households will be asked to use less electricity. We may further increase the domestic electricity tariff to make sure they get the message.”
“What contribution will the Queensland public sector make towards reducing emissions?” ask homeowners. The Premier remains silent.
Anna Bligh ignores the fact that the public sector is often a profligate user of electricity generated from burning coal, the major source of Queensland’s burgeoning CO2 emissions. She know that public sector inefficiencies and waste can be paid for by increased taxes, reduced services, imposing higher fees and charges, or by lowering standards and accountability.
Little wonder then that she should steadfastly refuse to set annual and longer term targets for reduction of CO2 emissions by government departments, agencies and businesses. To do otherwise would expose the performance of her government to scrutiny she does not want and can ill afford.
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