21.09.2010: BHP - The Climate Change Catalyst for Australia

Australia’s efforts to address climate change have been boosted by a most unexpected event… support from the world’s biggest miner, BHP. Marius Kloppers, Chief Executive of BHP, publicly announced BHP’s support for a price on carbon during an Australian British Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on 15 September 2010.

The significance of this support cannot be overstated. As Bob Brown, Leader of the Australian Greens said, “this is a game changer”. It’s a game changer because until now the climate change movement in Australia has been thwarted by the vested interest and political influence of mining. The reality is that without the support of the mining industry any serious effort to reduce carbon emissions was doomed to failure.

Kloppers’ announcement sent shockwaves through the political and business communities. Suddenly, support for the business certainty provided by a carbon price was coming from all quarters, including The Business Council of Australia and Minerals Council of Australia.

From go-slow to policy backflip

The political scene went from a go-slow approach to climate change with plans for collective consultation, to a quick turn around on the Labor party pre-election stance to now be entertaining an interim carbon tax as proposed by The Greens. It seems like a policy back flip is becoming a regular event in politics as Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister, indicated on the weekend that a price on carbon could happen even sooner than previously anticipated.

"BHP statements echo our policy: It sounds very much like the Greens policy going to the election where we advocated a carbon tax, which is a simple market mechanism but with the ability to build in a carbon trading scheme if the rest of the world, if the US, China, the rest of the world goes in that direction. While looking at the ability to use the money raised through that scheme to help re-jig the economy and re-green it, direct it towards renewable energy." Senator Bob Brown, Greens Leader, speaking on ABC Radio.

This is exactly the catalyst required to reignite community support for stopping global warming. Climate change policy in Australia had become lost in indecision and inaction. A lot of people were left confused about the need for a carbon price.

Carbon price favours energy efficiencies and renewables

For most of us the goal of a carbon price is clear. A carbon price adds the environmental cost to fossil fuels and in doing so shifts the balance to favour low-carbon solutions such as energy efficiencies and renewables. Low-carbon solutions become more economically attractive and therefore attract more investment.

But for a large number of people this has not been so clear. Their views have been influenced by the opinions extolled by the mining industry. Until recently the mining industry has left a lot of people confused about the science of climate change and the impact of a carbon price. This is no longer the case. The message has now shifted to "support a price on carbon" for those who are most influenced by the views of resource companies.

An historic moment has occurred in the acceptance of man’s influence on climate change. BHP, a resource company in a country where fossil fuels are plentiful, has indicated the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions. The whole world is watching to see if Australia implements a carbon price. As Kloppers said, “We [BHP] also believe that such a global initiative will eventually come and when it does Australia will need to have acted ahead of it to maintain its competitiveness”.

Source: Green Times

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