Celebrate a carbon tax, then take three steps to a zero carbon Australia

Passing the carbon price through the Senate is a victory, but there is plenty yet to be done. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

At long last, the Gillard Government’s carbon price is law. On July 1 next year, approximately 500 of our biggest companies will start paying the government $23 for every tonne of greenhouse gas they emit. In this way, Australia has taken a small, but decisive, step towards a zero carbon economy.

Those that have fought long and hard for a carbon price will be pausing to celebrate. Celebrations are hard to come by in the climate debate. We have endured four years of often vitriolic debate since Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol in his first act as Prime Minister.

The messy politics of climate change has tested the resolve of climate activists and opened up ideological divides. So it is appropriate to celebrate this victory; because it is a victory.

At the same time, I am conscious of how far we still have to go to avoid dangerous climate change. With Tony Abbott’s Opposition pledging to repeal the carbon price legislation, the victory remains fragile and needs to be defended.

Yet the carbon price is only the first step in the necessary and urgent transition to a zero carbon economy. So let’s look at three next steps for climate action in Australia.

1. Aim higher for 2020

Passing the “carbon tax” is only a small part of the solution. AAP Image/Alan Porritt