High price of zero mission

Each cow emits around 100 kg of methane a year.

OPINION by Senator Matt Canavan

For most newspapers, news reporting is not really a thing anymore, so it was no surprise to see the nation’s News Limited papers be devoted to advertising in favour of what they termed ‘mission zero’ this week.

Their goal was to convince people of the merit of signing up to a net zero emissions goal. After reading through the propaganda, I was almost convinced to change my mind, after all, by the way it was pitched, I should be receiving a new set of steak knives if I did.

Removing all use of coal, gas, oil, cattle (they produce emissions too) is such a monumental task that will cost a fortune. But nowhere in the propaganda did it describe what this cost would be.

The ‘economic analysis’ only described potential jobs in new industries, some of which do not currently exist like hydrogen electricity.

There was not even an attempt to estimate the costs of making such a huge change to our economy.

Others have estimated the cost, however, and those costs are huge. Before the last election, Dr Brian Fisher, a respected Australian agricultural economist, estimated the costs of reducing emissions by 45 per cent.

These costs showed that reducing emissions would cost Australia 336,000 jobs, electricity prices would increase by 58 per cent and wages would be $9000 a year lower. A carbon price of $326 per tonne would be needed to cut emissions by just half.

As Brian Fisher said on the release of the modelling: “As a state, Queensland is likely to be hard hit given its heavy reliance on fossil fuel production, mining and metal smelting.”

Central Queensland would have the most to lose. The thermal coal sector would drop by 44 per cent and metallurgical coal by 13 per cent. The aluminium industry would fall by more than a third.

For the beef industry, a carbon price of $326 per tonne would be a huge impost. Each cow emits around 100 kg of methane a year. According to the accepted science, methane is 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide. So in carbon dioxide terms, each cow emits around 2.3 tonnes a year. For a grazier with a 1000 head, they would be up for a $326,000 carbon bill every year.

Those extra costs would be passed on to all Australian consumers through their shopping bills. At those level of carbon prices, the cost of mince could rise by more than $7 per kilogram, almost doubling the cost of a spaghetti bolognese.

And what are we bearing all these costs for? Any attempt to limit our emissions will only help the environment if China reduces their emissions too. China accounts for a third of the world’s emissions and shows no signs of trying to reduce them.

If we cannot trust China to adhere to its trade obligations, if we can’t trust them to allow independent inspectors to discover the origins of the coronavirus, how could we trust them to comply with a global climate agreement.

Worse, if China does not comply, but we saddle our own industry with increased costs, then we just lose more jobs to China.

That would make our country weaker at a time when the real news this week was that China has flown a record number of warplanes into Taiwanese airspace.