It’s the head-exploding headline of the month from down under. Bloomberg reports:
Australia to Cut, Delay $500 Million of Clean-Energy Funding After Floods
In this country, ABC News explained “Raging Waters In Australia and Brazil Product of Global Warming.”
The Australian government’s own Bureau of Meteorology released data showing that the warmest sea surface temperatures on record were fueling floods called ‘biblical’ — floods covering an area “the size of France and Germany combined.”
But in the most counterproductive decision imaginable, “to help pay for reconstruction after the nation’s worst floods,” the government is cutting funding for clean energy programs including solar energy and green cars:
Australia, where coal accounts for more than 80 percent of electricity production, will cut the A$1.5 billion Solar Flagships program by A$60 million and defer a further A$190 million of proposed grants, according to documents released today by Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office.
Note that an Australian dollar roughly equals one American dollar.
Australia will also delay A$160 million of spending aimed at encouraging carbon-capture ventures, the documents show. The government will reduce the amount of funding in the A$1.9 billion initiative by A$90 million, the documents show….
Australia will save A$160 million over two years by capping funding for a renewable energy bonus and solar hot water rebate program, the documents from the prime minister’s office show.
Gillard said today the government will save A$2.8 billion by reducing spending on climate control measures, including the so-called Green Car Innovation Fund and the Cleaner Car Rebate Scheme, among other cuts, and A$1 billion through delaying infrastructure projects.
The Prime Minister offers this weak defense:
Gillard pledged to restart an effort to curb emissions after replacing Kevin Rudd as prime minister in June.
“The key to these carbon abatement program savings is my determination to deliver a carbon price,” she said in Canberra today. “There is complete consensus that the most efficient way to reduce carbon” is to impose a cost, Gillard said.
Money that would have been allocated to solar and carbon capture ventures between 2011 and 2015 will now be spent in 2015, 2016 and “beyond,” the office of Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said in an e-mailed statement today.
One can’t argue that a carbon price isn’t crucial, but a carbon price by itself won’t solve the problem, as I’ve said many times — and that assumes Gillard delivers on her pledge. Nor is the initial carbon price likely to be anywhere near high enough to jumpstart many clean energy technologies. The fact is that new, innovative technologies face many market barriers and deserve government incentives.
Of all the places the Australian government could find to fund reconstruction, this should have been the last place it looked.
Almost two months of torrential rains in the northeastern state of Queensland have killed as many as 32 people, affected about 30,000 properties, shut coal mines, cut rail lines and damaged crops. Economists estimate it may cost A$20 billion in repairs and rebuilding after the flooding that has also hit Victoria and New South Wales states.
Without aggressive development and deployment of clean energy, much, much worse is yet to come.
- Deadly flash flood hits Australia after six inches of rain fell in just 30 minutes: Scientists see climate change link to Australian floods
- The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”; Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”
- Hansen: Would recent extreme “events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” The “appropriate answer” is “almost certainly not.”
- As floods and extreme weather devastate the world, CBS News explains the link to global warming.