OPINION: LABOR’S climate target of a 45 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030 will hit agriculture where it hurts – in the hip pocket.
Desperate to differentiate itself from a resurgent Coalition with a target of 26pc to 28pc, Labor announced huge numbers to coincide with the Paris climate conference without revealing the shocking truth.
The costs of a carbon target depend on two things: the size of the target and the policies chosen to achieve it.
Just before Labor lost office, it commissioned modelling of a new supercharged carbon impost on households, business and families.
With a modelled target of more than 44pc below 2000 levels by 2030, the carbon price (or tax) skyrockets to $209 a tonne.
Remember, we just dispensed with a carbon tax of around $24 a tonne?
The modelling showed income per person would be $4900 lower by 2030.
Real wages growth would be about 6pc lower and GDP would be 2.6pc lower in 2030, losing more than $600bn of activity between now and then.
Investment in Australia would be 2.9pc lower, the equivalent of 28 WestConnex motorways over the next 15 years.
Meanwhile, wholesale electricity prices would be 78pc higher in 2030 than today.
The modelling requires closure of all 37 coal power stations in Australia by 2033 with all brown-coal power stations shut by 2022.
Communities in the Latrobe Valley, the Hunter Valley, the Collie region and throughout central and southern Queensland will be decimated.
Manufacturing, mining and construction industries would face serious declines.
The coal, oil and gas industry (employing 65,000) would be 23pc lower than it otherwise would have been in 2030.
Coalmining output would be 42pc lower.
Our aluminium industry, employing about 17,600, would halve because it would be unprofitable to continue smelting and refining here.
Declines in the construction industry would mean fewer opportunities for trades.
In the real world, we should be encouraging our relatively low emission exporters to aggressively replace dirtier alternatives.
We should be crediting the role they play in reducing global emissions.
Penalising these industries simply pushes the emissions offshore to dirtier industries, with no gain to the planet and at monstrous economic pain for us.
For instance, our rapidly growing gas exports reduce global emissions by replacing higher emission coal in China.
In the agriculture sector, our exports are far less emissions-intensive than our competitors.
The Chinese aluminium sector uses dirty coal, with much higher emissions intensity.
Given the startling costs of Labor's target, are they really necessary to "do our bit" as responsible global citizens?
The answer is clearly no.
With a 45pc target, our absolute commitments would exceed the current commitments of the US, Canada, Japan, the EU and New Zealand by a large margin, leaving countries like China and South Korea for dead.
The differences are even more startling on a per capita basis, because of our strong population growth.
Our reductions would exceed 65pc a person, with the closest of the major developed countries at 44pc (Canada and NZ).
Targets that race ahead of the rest of world might make inner-city Labor MPs feel safer in their Greens-challenged seats - but this is a policy that utterly abandons middle Australia and Australian exporters.
We need a better-paced approach that recognises our strong population growth and our focus on relatively low-emission commodity exports.
It will allow time for the cost of renewable technologies (and crucial storage technologies) to fall while old sectors adjust at a reasonable pace.
It means giving businesses time to find innovative energy efficiency solutions while we improve our understanding of land-use impacts on carbon storage.
Most importantly, it will bring the public on the journey.