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Failure to fire

08 October 2013

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Frank Jotzo is Director of The Centre for Climate and Energy Policy at Crawford School, and director of the School’s Resources, Environment and Development program. He currently teaches the graduate courses Domestic Climate Change Economics and Policy and Issues in Development and Environment.

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Communication failure by government and climate policy experts is partly to blame for the potential abandonment of Australia’s carbon-pricing scheme, says an ANU expert.

Writing in the latest edition of Nature, Crawford School’s Associate Professor Frank Jotzo says that the Gillard government’s failure to explain the impact of carbon pricing, and carbon policy experts arguing about policy detail ahead of supporting the principle of emissions trading, was a major factor in the likely demise of Australia’s carbon-pricing scheme.

In a commentary piece, Jotzo argues that policy-makers and experts need to better communicate such schemes to the public, to help guard against adversarial politics leading to inferior policy outcomes.

“Although most experts regard a carbon price as the most efficient way of cutting emissions, it has been discredited in the popular discourse by opponents branding it as a punitive tax,” he writes.

“In my view, inadequate communication with the public is partly to blame: Australia’s former government failed to explain that carbon-pricing revenue is returned to low- and middle-income earners.

“Moreover, economists should have proclaimed their almost unanimous support for putting a price on carbon emissions.”

Jotzo adds that moves to scrap the current scheme could send negative signals to other countries planning to introduce similar carbon-pricing initiatives as well as other knock-on effects for Australia.

“The latest proposals retain Australia’s target for lower emissions, but aim to replace the carbon-pricing scheme with government payments to companies that reduce emissions below a specified baseline.

“Critics include environmentalists, who fear that such a scheme would fail to meet Australia’s emissions-reductions target, and economists, who say that it would compromise efficiency.

“And under the new scheme, the taxpayer would pay to reduce emissions,” he writes.

Read Associate Professor Frank Jotzo’s Nature commentary online.

This article originally appeared on the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific website.

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