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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Emissions Reduction Fund is a fraud

The Emissions Reduction Fund is a fraud

Its review needs to expose the perpetrators

A review will examine the discredited Emissions Reduction Fund. But does the government really want to take away a source of cheap carbon credits?

Bernard Keane Crikey’s political editor writes

Critics of the Coalition’s discredited Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) have welcomed the review of the fund announced today by Energy Minister Chris Bowen — and particularly its comprehensive nature.

The review, by former chief scientist Ian Chubb, will not merely examine the likelihood that 80% of the credits issued by the fund — and paid for by taxpayers — have major integrity problems, but will look at the governance of the scheme.
The review follows ANU professor Andrew Macintosh blowing the whistle on the fraudulent nature of credits generated by the ERF, especially in relation to the lack of additionality for many of the credits (i.e., they were credits for things that would have been done anyway, or for things that weren’t permanent).

But the “review” doesn’t need a former chief scientist, it needs a judge. This should be a judicial inquiry to investigate a billion-dollar fraud on taxpayers, who have been paying for these worthless credits for years.

The ERF was born as a fraud, based on fraudulent science, it was implemented as a fraud and it has generated billions in fraudulent credits. The fraud was an ingenious three-way scam: it served as cover for Tony Abbott’s climate denialism after the right-wing putsch that removed Malcolm Turnbull the first time, and then again as cover for Scott Morrison’s climate denialism after Turnbull’s second removal; it funneled hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money in pork-barrelling to Coalition mates; and it gave big carbon emitters an out for exceeding emissions caps under the Safeguard Mechanism, despite the lack of any actual carbon emission offset.

We don’t need Ian Chubb reviewing it. We need Greg Hunt, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor in a witness box being forced to answer questions about the fraudulent nature of the scheme.

The government wants to properly apply and toughen up the Safeguard Mechanism as part of its more ambitious climate targets. Perversely, this creates an incentive for it to retain the ERF, even if in modified form, and the flow of credits it potentially provides for large emitters to offset their emissions above the Safeguard cap.

Earlier this year, the Angus Taylor-appointed Clean Energy Regulator intervened to ensure the price of carbon credits in Australia fell significantly just as Chevron was facing the prospect of having to buy hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth.

Effective climate action requires genuine emissions offsets. For governments and large emitters, the incentive is instead for lots of offsets to be readily available. Where will Labor come down?

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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