• John McDonnell

Matt Canavan bells the cat on zero emissions

In an op-ed in the ‘Australian’ on Thursday, Matt Canavan outlined a compelling argument against a binding commitment to achieve zero emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050. His argument is that such a commitment requires a huge element of trust, by Australia, that the rest of the world would act in good faith.

As Senator Canavan summed it up, “do you trust China?”

Senator Canavan took aim at the G7 communique that called for support for a global rules-based system that was dominated by the big democracies. He said that China had paid lip service to the rules-based system but had then ignored it.

Twenty years ago, when it signed its protocol of accession to the WTO, China had committed to revealing its subsidies for agriculture and industry but to date had declined to do so. In those twenty years it has used subsidies to capture half of the global market for manufactures.

Senator Canavan made the point in his op-ed that China had agreed to cooperate with the WHO inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 virus but had then refused to hand over critical data. He argued that in these circumstances, Australia would be foolish to enter into a binding agreement to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

He said that if China did not act in good faith and reduce its emissions, then Australia would find its competitiveness reduced for no real purpose because China’s emission increases would wipe out any gains from emission reductions by countries committed to zero emissions, as China continues to plunder global markets.

The other issue that Senator Canavan raised was the cost of implementing a plan to reach the zero-emission target. He says that the CSIRO had estimated that it would require a carbon price in 2022 of $50 per tonne, which would rise to $400 per tonne by 2050.

He said this would amount to a tax of $70,000 a year for the average small beef farm in 2022 rising to half a million dollars a year in 2050.

Senator Canavan says that these costs will need to be made public before the Nationals will agree to back the zero-emission target. The other precondition is that any commitment entered into at the Glasgow climate conference should include a get-out clause that would come into effect if major emitters are shown not to have acted in good faith.

In addition to these pre-conditions, the Nationals have indicated that they want the Liberals to demonstrate that the zero-emission targets can be achieved without significant damage to the mining and agricultural sectors.

Senator Canavan was also a major promoter of the amendments to the Murray Darling Basin plan, which have been covered elsewhere in FlowNews24.

He is a founder member of the senate Nationals group along with senator Bridget McKenzie.

Senator Canavan has said that he will continue to take an independent position on government policy if he believes that it is not in the interests of farmers or miners. The government is likely to show a degree of tolerance for this independent approach on the basis that it will be electorally popular.