By Colin Hesse, The Greens NSW Local Government Adviser
Like the temperature of the world, the heat generated by the discussion around pricing carbon emissions has increased the political temperature, while doing little to shed any light on how a carbon price will impact our community.
Each level of government will be affected by carbon pricing, and in the case of local government those effects will be in three main areas; the cost of electricity (in particular the cost of electricity for street lighting), CO2 emissions from waste, and other pass-on costs, primarily through building materials.
According to research carried out by the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC) in Perth, the cost of the carbon price for local government will be “around one third of the economic impact of the introduction of the Goods and Services tax”.
The NSW Government’s conservative Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority approved a rate rise this year for all councils in NSW of 3.6%, of which the carbon price component was 0.4% of the increase.
A carbon price is widely agreed to be both the most effective and cheapest way of moving Australia to a lower carbon future.
The pricing of carbon has already driven significant savings by local government to the way waste is managed, in particular by the extraction of methane and by increasing recycling.
The long run effect of improved waste management and reduction, plus other actions such as modernising electrical systems in council buildings, will save each and every local government area money and minimise rate increases. Already the price signal given by pricing emissions is reducing energy use and costs to local government.
In 2002, Tweed Shire in northern New South Wales installed gas capture on its landfill site and in 2006 a contractor began burning the gas to generate electricity to power 400 homes. As a result of this action Tweed Council reduced the carbon emissions generated by its landfill site and avoided paying a price on carbon.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW says a price on carbon will drive investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, as has already been the case with many forward looking local government areas. The $10 billion Clean Energy fund that the Greens negotiated with the Federal government will assist those moves further.
The big question is not whether a carbon price will have a great impact on the costs for local government. The real issues are: Does your council have the right political leadership to reduce council carbon emissions? Will your councillors take the next steps to use federal money raised by the pricing carbon to further reduce your council’s emissions?
If you see false carbon tax price hikes, you can call 1300 303 609 or visit www.scamwatch.gov.au