Carbon White Paper: Real Politic, Business Opportunities & What To Do

(Below paper published as a Hawker Britton occasional paper: see for the whole article)

NOW that the heated first round of responses to the Rudd Government’s carbon trading White Paper is cooling, it is worthwhile looking at how businesses can do two very important things in the face of inevitable climate policy progress.

The first is to play it smart – by safely negotiating this ‘bigger-than-the-GST’ exercise in economic restructuring without suffering unnecessary harm. The second, and most important, is to be proactive - seeking out the new business opportunities on offer and moving on them ahead of competitors.

To this end, our article addresses three main dimensions:

The real politic of emissions trading – in spite of ongoing arguments around its final form, Australia is now committed to a carbon market and getting on with it in the field may be far more important than trying to make it perfect in the laboratory (a senior federal bureaucrat charged with implementing the scheme has described this challenge as ‘how to make sure the best is not the enemy of the good‘).
Finding the business opportunities – almost everyone agrees that there are great low-carbon options and opportunities for the future - if ‘the future’ means in two or three decades rather than a few years. But all the argument revolves around relatively short-term pain, which the White Paper proposes to address with a multi-billion dollar array of transitional measures. Businesses that can maximise the compensation or transitional support they receive while sizing up and pursuing new opportunities are among likely winners.
Working out what to do – there are a number of things businesses need to do to be winners on the path to what the White Paper highlights as ‘Australia’s low pollution future’.