By Nick Toscano
Growing demands from some of the nation’s biggest miners for the Morrison government to set a price on carbon have been emphatically rejected, as federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan insists “taxes ain’t the answer”.
Mr Canavan on Wednesday gave one of the government’s strongest dismissals yet of a wave of calls from heads of major resources companies including Rio Tinto, BHP and Woodside for more decisive political action to curb carbon emissions and help transition to renewable energy.
In a reversal of its historical position against emissions pricing, oil and gas producer Woodside last month emerged as the latest resources company to demand a carbon price, with its chief executive, Peter Coleman, warning the consequence of inaction was “too great”.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Melbourne Mining Club event, Mr Canavan said he acknowledged that some major resources companies had signalled support for carbon pricing, but said, “I don’t see any evidence that such a policy approach would deliver”.
“I get along very well with Peter Coleman, and [BHP’s head of mining operations] Mike Henry was sitting next to me today … we can respectfully disagree about policy approaches,” he said. “I don’t see any evidence that such a policy approach would deliver.”
Carbon pricing calls from the business community have been compounding ever since the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report set out a series of radical changes needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.
BHP, the world’s largest miner, said the report demonstrated the need for stronger climate action was more critical than ever, and should be a “rallying cry” to governments to cut global emissions.
“We believe there should be a price on carbon, implemented in a way that addresses competitiveness concerns and achieves lowest-cost emissions reductions,” BHP’s head of sustainability and climate change, Fiona Wild, said in October.
Mr Canavan on Wednesday said the Morrison government was “acting in accordance with the evidence and the science” on climate change, and was on course to beat Kyoto targets by a significant margin, showing its existing “direct” approach to climate change was succeeding.
“My view is that any proposed policy to tackle climate change must deliver lower energy costs over time, not higher,” he said. “If we deliver higher energy costs we will get a political reaction, just like you see in Paris, just like we’ve seen with the carbon tax. Taxes ain’t the answer – because taxes are ultimately going to find a constituency that’s opposed to them and they won’t last long.”
The evidence is clear Matt Canavan the Price on carbon worked
In his address to the mining club on Wednesday, Mr Canavan laid out an ambitious goal to stimulate a “new mining investment boom” that could support economic growth and tens of thousands of jobs.
Taxes ain’t the answer – because taxes are ultimately going to find a constituency that’s opposed to them and they won’t last long.
Mr Canavan said the mining boom had “come of the boil” over the past five years but, fortunately for Australia, the property sector had returned to prosperity and helped plug the gap in the economy. But as conditions in the property marketed softened, Mr Canavan said, “we should again focus” on attracting greater mining investment.
According to figures from the Office of the Chief Economist, there were 250 major resources projects across the country in some stage of planning, representing $275 billion worth of investment.
Most of these projects were in the “feasible” stage, Mr Canavan said, but just 10 per cent, representing $30 billion, were in the “committed” stage.
“The challenge for Australia and for our policy is to support as many of these projects as possible to turn them into the committed stage and ultimately completed projects,” he said.
Press link for more: SMH