‘Technology Not Taxes’: a Failure Australia Has Seen Before

The Morrison Government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with ‘technology not taxes’ is neither plausible nor original. New Australia Institute analysis shows that back in 1997 the Howard Government announced a similar plan, with no carbon price and no regulatory restrictions on fossil fuels, that failed to deliver more than 400 MT CO2-e of promised emission reductions.

Back in 1997, then Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared:

“Today I announce the largest and most far-reaching package of measures to address climate change ever undertaken by any government in Australia…”

“The package I announce today will achieve a dramatic reduction of a third in our expected net emissions growth from 1990 to 2010. These measures will reduce our net emissions growth from 28 to 18 per cent in that period, or some 39 million tonnes of emissions. This is comparable to the emissions from all the electricity used by households right across Australia. This is a realistic, even conservative, calculation of the emission benefits.”

Comparison of Projected v Actual Emissions from John Howard’s 1997 Climate Plan
Comparison of Projected v Actual Emissions from John Howard’s 1997 Climate Plan

“It is easy to promise new technologies and big emission reductions. But as this analysis shows, it is much harder to deliver emission reductions than it is to announce them,” said Richard Denniss, chief economist at the Australia Institute.

“Despite the bold promises made by then Prime Minister John Howard, not only did emissions fail to fall, emissions rose faster after the plan was announced, not slower. These were not conservative announcements, they were concocted.

“After decades of promises, plans and pamphlets, Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels are still rising. Promises of new technologies have been used repeatedly to hide the fact that we rely on accounting tricks rather than transitioning our energy, industry and transport sectors.”

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