Don't make the poor pay more to fight climate change


Don't make the poor pay more to fight climate changeAfter appearing to belatedly embrace the need to fight climate change, the Prime Minister finally admitted last week that he cares more about protecting Australia's economic prosperity.

He sought to discredit the Stern Report, as British economist Sir Nicholas Stern visited Australia to spell out the implications of his landmark report for Australia. Stern is credited with galvanising many developed countries to take urgent action to curb climate change.

John Howard told Parliament that the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions advocated by Stern "would have a devastating effect on the Australian economy".

The focus of his attention is on Australia's competitive position in the world economy. While he mentions the cost in terms of increased unemployment, his main concern is the big business bottom line.

Meanwhile the St Vincent de Paul Society was arguing last week that it is the poor who will suffer disproportionately if across the board anti-climate change measures are adopted.

Vinnies' Victorian policy analyst Gavin Dufty said the suggestion of a $10 per tonne carbon levy should be assessed for its impact on pensioners.

"This group consumes energy at a rate below average household consumption, but, conversely, as a proportion of their weekly spending, they pay almost double the amount compared with the average household."

He added that a 7% increase in electricity bills will also have an impact on sections of the community "unable to meaningfully substitute electricity consumption with other energy sources such as natural gas".

Other voices in the Church have also noted that the poor will suffer disproportionately. Columban ecologist Fr Sean McDonagh, who visited Australia recently, has written: "We know that climate change will have a terrible impact on the poor, the very people who did least to cause the problem in the first place."

The Prime Minister made it clear last week that he is a climate change skeptic. He told Parliament: "History is littered with examples of where nations have overreacted to presumed threats."

By contrast, Vinnies accepts the facts as presented by Nicholas Stern and scientific authorities. It merely urges that all Australians share equitably in the financial cost of responding to the challenge.



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Existing comments

This editorial made my day! I have long been concerned that, while we hear a lot about what "we" should be doing to save the environment, this is not usually accompanied by an awareness that unless we ensure otherwise, those least able to will be (in effect) expected to bear a disproportionate part of the burden. I think this is where Christianity has a vital role to play. While there may be some truth in the criticism that the Judeo-Christian tradition does not encourage respect for the earth, it has certainly always been strong in its emphasis on social justice!

Cathy Taggart | 04 April 2007

Surely carbon levies will form part of a national strategy, and will be collected by way of a national "tax" with assessments based on an ability to pay criteria and collected nationally
kevin gallagher | 04 April 2007

I don't think that when Columban ecologist Fr Sean McDonagh (and/or others) said that "...the poor will suffer disproportionately...", he meant people on welfare in Australia so much as the 30 million Bangladeshis whose lives will be disrupted disastrously by rising sea levels.
Nevertheless, even though we all effectively live like the kings and queens of a few hundred years ago, pensioners and unemployed people do face a struggle. Of course, there is nothing like a meaningless dialogue on "the war on terror" to sidestep the facts.
Regardless of the Neocons and the last days of US imperialism, no amount of aircraft carrier attack groups or nuclear WMD's will suffice to hold back the rising sea levels or the hurricane Katrinas. We are sadly still at a stage where "technology" will not save us alone.
It requires a genuine effort for peace and understanding if global co-operation is to mean anything in the long term. Fighting for domination (the Wolfowitz doctrine - search "Wolfowitz Pearl Harbor" and you will find out) or grabbing diminishing resources simply to squander selfishly is no longer a viable option.
Douglas Chalmers | 09 April 2007


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