Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Australian Government Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme

The Australian Government released its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper today (Wednesday 16 July 2008). There is a Summary, Fact sheets, and media release available, as well as the Full report. The report is, in part, a response to the Garnaut Climate Change Review. The government is inviting submissions on the green paper.

Too Much PDF

The summary of the report is an efficiently coded as a reasonably accessible web page, but most of the other documents are large PDF files. The chapters of the report have been provided as separate files, for individual download, which helps, as well as the full 3 Mbyte document. The summary has been offered first, then other chapters and the full report last. This is a good approach as many people will only need the summary, but will tend to click on the full report, if it is offered first. However, it is a little confusing as three versions of the summary are provided: a HTML version, a PDF version and the summary chapter of the report in PDF. It would be better if the HTML version of the summary had been offered, before the PDF version. Apart from the cost and inconvenience to the reader, large PDF files contribute to carbon emissions, due to the need for increased electricity use in transmission, processing and storage of the documents.
Exclusion of Transport Fuel Questionable

The Government proposes an emissions trading scheme, with a limit set on how much carbon pollution industry can produce, and the price set by the market. Funds from the initial sale of permits will be used to help households and businesses reduce carbon emissions. However, the government proposes to cut fuel taxes to offset the initial increase due to the permits for the first three years. This will remove the incentive for fuel users to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and so remove much of the value of the scheme. The three year review for this seems to place it just past the next election, removing political pressure from the government. It is unfortunate the government has taken this cynical political approach to an important global issue and so placed the lives of millions of people at risk.

Internet key to the strategy

One interesting point is that the use of the Internet is key to the Government's strategy:
5.9 ... Emissions obligations under the scheme, the types of assessment methodologies used and any uncertainty estimates reported by liable entities would be published by the Government on the internet as soon as is feasible after reports are submitted ...

5.5.2 ... An initial focus of compliance activities is likely to be education and outreach, such as consultations on the design of administrative processes; provision of information (via the internet, seminars and other ways) to liable entities on how to comply; and providing convenient and inexpensive
ways to interact with the regulator. ...

7.5.1 ... More frequent auctions also have a higher administrative cost for the regulator. However, the capacity to hold auctions on the internet means that costs are unlikely to be an important factor in determining auction frequency.

7.5.5 ...Given modern internet-based auction platform technology, the complexity of simultaneous auctions can be managed at relatively
low cost.
7.5.6 ... Internet auction platform - Auctions may be conducted using an internet platform. The internet platform will encourage more entrants and greater competition because it is low cost and readily accessible.

From: Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper, 2008 (emphasis added)
However, not all government use of the internet for the environment has been successful. The report mentions: "8.5.1 ... the One Stop Green Shop, which is a single, user friendly government web portal designed to link schools, businesses and families to household efficiency programs provided by all levels of government.". This web site was announced 13 May 2008, but a web search finds that "OneStopGreenShop" is a commercial web site selling environmental products which existed before the government announcement.

The government must have known of the existing OneStopGreenShop before making an announcement. It seems unlikely that government staff would be so poorly trained as to not try typing in the name of their proposed web site to see if it was already in use. For the government to be appropriating the intellectual property of an exiting business, or endorsing it, seems questionable.

No Online forum

The government is inviting submissions on the green paper by electronic means, which is to be commended. But all that is provided is an email address to write to. This would be a good opportunity for the government to show leadership and sponsor an online forum for discussion.

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