Neoliberalism cannot and does not want to solve our climate crisis or save our endangered species from extinction.
Market-based policies have failed spectacularly when it comes to aged care, disabled care and Murray River rescue. But despite the catastrophe catalog, earlier this month Tanya Plibersek said: “Ultimately, I would like to see the market truly value nature, so that protecting forests is more valuable than destroying them.”
The environment minister then suggested that, by establishing a biodiversity market, Australia could one day “host its own Green Wall Street: a global financial hub of trust, where the world comes to invest in the protection and restoration of environment”.
Markets don’t like people, platypuses or ecosystems. The only “value” in the market is the expected future profits that a company or business could generate. A company’s share price reflects investors’ expectations for future profits and dividends. It would be great if the multinationals that “invest” in biodiversity did it exclusively to save koalas or bogong moths, but the fact is that no one invests out of kindness without expecting some sort of return.
While Plibersek has been vague about the exact terminology of the units that would be traded under the proposed scheme, the most likely customers for biodiversity certificates or credits would be landowners who want to compensate for the destruction of some of their remaining natural habitats to build. new developments or new mines. The “market price” for such destruction will not be determined by the value of a koala, but by the potential profits from destroying a similarly sized piece of habitat elsewhere.
Australia does not need elaborate new “market mechanisms” to save our precious environment. We just have to stop approving new housing settlements where koalas still love to live, or new mines where platypuses live. And we must stop the approval of the 116 coal and gas projects currently underway in Australia, which will inevitably cause the climate change that most threatens all of our unique species.
The problem with such policies is that they work, which is why those who are detained for destroying what’s left of our habitat are so determined to avoid some regulations in favor of complicated trading schemes that just don’t work.
This is not a new criticism. The New South Wales Auditor General recently investigated the state’s biodiversity program and found that the NSW Department of Planning and Environment “did not effectively design the core elements of the program.”
The report of the auditor general, defined as “harmful”, found this “the main concerns relating to the transparency, sustainability and integrity of the regime have yet to be fully resolved “ and “that the biodiversity gains achieved through the Regime will not be sufficient to offset the losses resulting from development”.
Despite the failures of NSW’s biodiversity compensation program, the federal government is running down the same flawed path.
As the state of the environment report makes clear, habitat loss is one of the biggest risks to what remains of Australia’s biodiversity. Even if it were possible to measure all the biodiversity on every hectare of land, and develop an exchange rate for koalas, platypus and possums, and thus ensure that there are no frauds or conflicts of interest, the idea we will leave to the mining companies and promoters. real estate destroys part of what’s left of our precious habitat as long as they buy a “compensation” from someone else is bizarre.
If Australia is serious about protecting our endangered species, we need to protect what’s left of their habitat, not ask the market to set a price to destroy it.
Unfortunately, this same obsession with compensation has also become central to climate policy. Rather than insisting that major polluters reduce their emissions, and rather than preventing the construction of new gas and coal mines, the Albanian government’s proposed “safeguard mechanism” will likely impose no binding obligation on major polluters to actually reduce their emissions, simply allowing them to buy carbon offsets instead.
At the heart of the safeguard mechanism will be yet another complicated commercial scheme, in which both existing and new fossil fuel projects can increase their emissions by buying shady rewards from someone who has promised not to cut down a tree they hardly ever would. to break down. Although the investigation into integrity issues with such bad debts won’t be completed before December, the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, plans to have his new carbon trading legislation drafted by November.
Scrapping $ 11 billion a year in fossil fuel subsidies and banning new coal and gas projects would be good for the budget and the climate, and free up a lot of money to save animals.
But instead of doing what is cheap and easy, our government has chosen to do something complex and risky. It’s easy to see why real estate developers and the mining industry are willing to take the risk, but it’s hard to see what you get for koalas.