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Hocking David thumb thumb

Some time ago I wrote about the impending Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in Australia and its potential opportunities for the spatial industries. The CPRS was the brainchild of then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who was subsequently unceremoniously dumped. With the Greens now in control, the pressure is on to have a carbon price.

Some time ago I wrote about the impending Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in Australia and its potential opportunities for the spatial industries. The CPRS was the brainchild of then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who was subsequently unceremoniously dumped.

During the election campaign both parties were cautious on the issue of another ‘great big tax’, which became the mantra of the conservative party. The Labor Party kept their position vague to protect its electoral position leading up to an election that was on a knife’s edge.

The outcome of the election was unclear, other than that it produced an outcome that has the Greens in control of the house of review – the Senate. I won’t go into the machinations of the Australian political system other than to say that the pressure is on from the Greens to have a carbon price.

Just what all this will mean for our carbon emissions future is unclear. There is still no decision on what the price for carbon will be or what the trading scheme will look like. In fact, there could be a tax rather than a trading scheme, or a combination of both or even a carbon trigger on development applications. So, the spatial industries are still in the mix.

Heightened Awareness

The incentive for governments in Australia to respond to climate change has been heightened by the recent floods in Queensland and Victoria, the cyclone in Queensland and the bush fires in Western Australia. The Queensland floods have had an immediate effect on awareness of the lack of adequate flood mapping data – specifically, high resolution digital elevation data. SIBA was quick off the mark and has recently met with the Minister’s Office to discuss what is needed, where, at what resolution and how much. A finger in the air amount of $50 million had been mentioned in the press, but industry insiders suggest it would be three times this amount nationally.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget that part of the problem with data is still the lack of a National Spatial Data Infrastructure that allows anyone the opportunity to find out just what data is available and what its pedigree is. Another $50 million might help in this regard. We are looking at somewhere in the area of $200 million to provide a semblance of spatial data needs, but the government is hesitating (as usual) saying that the insurance sector should put up half the amount and then complaining about how much money is required. This despite the fact that the government will have to put up around $6 billion to help fix the losses experienced by so many people and businesses affected by the floods. They just don’t appreciate that they have a need for such data that is at least as great as that of the insurance sector. What hope do we have for governments who can’t understand the basics of the spatial data needs of a nation?

Spatial Data Fundamental to Carbon Trading

If a carbon trading scheme is to be successful then spatial data will play an integral part. Spatial data will be fundamental in the measurement and modelling of land used for sequestration in trees or soil, for management of the process of balancing emissions to their respective offsets and for compliance, .

What will be the data cost? And will government spend to support a sound system or will it simply see the income as another cash-cow? I know where I’d be putting my bet.

The issue of carbon trading has many challenges not the least of which is the need to quickly educate those who will have key roles in management of a scheme, enforcement and policy. These are people who must know the link between spatial information and what they are charged to do. This will represents a greater demand on spatial skills and I don’t think governments have given this even a cursory thought. There are much more powerful vested interests driving this than our small industry.

I have a very simple view of the concept of a carbon trading scheme. The fact that Babcock and Brown were so keen on it should give cause for concern. I know I’ve said this before as somewhat of a facetious comment but I do think that governments are not very good at reading signals about the complexity of a CPRS. I’m not sure who is worse, governments or the financial sector, neither gives a hoot about the country or the economy they are both firmly committed to a ‘show me the money’ mentality.

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