Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Nation-State Before Planet


A government is as Marx described it, the executive committee of the capitalist class and as such it acts in the "national" interest which happens to always be the vested interest of the nation's ruling class. 

Australia is one of the dirtiest countries per head of population and a massive global supplier of fossil fuels. Unusually for a rich nation, it also still burns coal for most of its electricity.

Australia's 2030 emissions target - a 26% cut on 2005 levels - is half the US and UK benchmarks.

Canberra has also resisted joining the two-thirds of countries who have pledged net zero emissions by 2050.

And instead of phasing out coal - the worst fossil fuel - it's committed to digging for more. The government credits coal for providing profits to much of the country's wealthiest. Coal exports totalled A$55bn (£29bn; $40bn) last year, but most of this wealth was kept by mining companies. Less than a tenth went to Australia directly - that's about 1% of national revenue.

Mining has boosted Australia's economy for decades, and coal remains the country's second-biggest export. Only Indonesia sells more coal than Australia globally.

The mining lobby has "distorted" much policy over the years, says Prof Samantha Hepburn, a climate law expert at Deakin University.

The current government dismantled Australia's emissions trading scheme in 2014, shortly after winning power in a campaign heavily backed by mining interests. It's never again tried to put a price on carbon, or to restrict emissions from fossil fuel producers.

Instead, it's provided extra support to coal. This includes:

  • Approving new mines and extensions: There are over 80 proposed projects including plant upgrades
  • Tax subsidies: About A$10bn went to fossil fuel companies last year alone
  • 'Clean coal' investments: Schemes such as carbon capture and storage, often criticised as ineffective

Australia controversially sees liquified natural gas - another dirty fuel - as its next big domestic energy source. The government has already pledged half a billion dollars to new gas basins and plants, defying global calls for an end to new fossil fuel projects.

The article treats the Australian policy as an aberrancy but it shouldn't. Despite public claims to the contrary, there are many nations that will not comply with global recommendations that conflict with their national economy. 

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