Whyalla is still here. Iron ore (and, sadly, thermal coal) is still being exported by the megaton. Electricity prices haven’t risen dramatically. The Opposition, while still maintaining their intention to abolish the carbon price, have been pretty quiet about the matter otherwise. The Government hasn’t said a great deal about the issue either.
And thus, the point of the carbon pricing package – to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by putting a cost on doing so – has been ignored. But it’s kind of an important question to ask.
The good news is that emissions are dropping, particularly in the electricity sector. How much of this can be attributed to the carbon price, and how much to other factors, is a complex question.
In October 2012, Fairfax newspapers reported data showing the emissions intensity of electricity generation in the wake of the introduction of the carbon price. It does appear that emissions in the electricity sector are dropping, and dropped quite noticeably around the time of the introduction of the carbon price.
This is confirmed in the September 2012 national emissions inventory, the first since the introduction of the carbon price. The inventory observes that
In this quarter, electricity emissions decreased by 2.9% in trend terms to its lowest level since 2001, and 5.9% in seasonally adjusted and weather normalised terms.
However, it should be noted that electricity emissions have been on a downward trend since 2008; the renewable energy target, and a drop in demand presumably driven by the retail price rises, make it difficult to disentangle the effects of the carbon price. But an accelerating trend in emissions reduction of the sector most squarely impacted by the carbon price is precisely what you’d expect to see.
Overall, emissions are slowly declining; according to the report, the seasonally and weather adjusted quarterly decline is 0.6%, the trend decline is 0.2%.
One quarter’s data, when so many other factors impact upon emissions levels, is not enough to draw any firm conclusions. The early signs, however, appear good.