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Business sector faces up to 'variable' impacts of carbon tax

By: Stephen O'Grady
01 June, 2012

Australian industries face uncertain times with the onset of the carbon price in exactly a month, a Griffith University forum has heard.

The industry forum, hosted by Griffith Business School's Asia Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise (APCSE), heard that debate and discussion of carbon pricing must reach beyond politics and over-simplification.
 
"This is now a debate about the future of humanity," Professor Malcolm McIntosh, Director of the APCSE said.
 
"The calls for a new economic model are growing louder. It's time to rethink the current model of capitalism.
 
"Everything we do is towards a new economy where we are much more eco-efficient.
 
"There is a necessity for evidence-based conversation. There is a necessity for Australian commentary to be part of a global discourse. There is a necessity for intelligent conversation."
 
Australia's position on climate change within the larger context of global trends and the nation's readiness for the changes ahead were analysed during a two-hour event attended by industry leaders in business, manufacturing, mining, energy, banking, finance, health, local government, education and retail.
 
The South Bank forum heard keynote addresses from energy sector experts, Professor Paul Simshauser and Dr Jason West.
 
Professor Simshauser is Professor of Economics at the Griffith Business School and chief economist with AGL.
 
Dr West, a Griffith Business School global resources expert, predicted "significant but variable impacts" for businesses nationwide following the introduction of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
 
"The brutal fact is that while the emissions price acts as a signalling mechanism to major emitters, there are still uncertainties around appropriate investment options in the presence of emissions liabilities," Dr West, who also serves as a consultant to the global resources and energy sector, said.
 
"Firms that are exposed have the power to abate or offset emissions but the techniques required can be complex."
 
Professor McIntosh, who chaired the forum, believes it will help to inform public opinion and enhance debate in the build-up to the carbon price going live on July 1, and lead to the more extensive qualitative analysis and research that is required.
 
On a global level he pointed to the pursuit of resource efficiency among the world's leading economies, a pursuit that is hampered by rising populations and depletion of resources, inevitably giving way to an increase in energy prices.
 
On a local level he says many parts of Australia's business sector, having already factored carbon pricing into their operations, are dismayed by "a grossly over-simplified" debate where their efforts are misrepresented and mischaracterised.