There is a very real threat that the Rudd government’s proposed emissions trading scheme will only amount to more hot air – which would be disastrous for global warming. Greenpeace has made a submission to the federal government to make sure the scheme protects the interests of Australian households over big business. Of course, it also has to protect our future by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

So what is the emissions trading scheme? It’s a mechanism to reduce our carbon emissions by putting a price on our carbon pollution. In theory, polluters will pay for their climate damage and industry will have an economic incentive to switch to climate-friendly practices and technologies.

But, in reality, the “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme” proposed by the government panders to the powerful business lobby, handing out free permits to industrial giants so they can keep on polluting. Get this – coal-fired power stations will even get paid compensation for profit losses caused by the scheme! This is outrageous. For decades these polluters have been pouring millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and haven’t paid a cent in damages. And businesses have known since at least 1992 that carbon pollution causes climate change, yet they’ve done nothing to become more sustainable. Now that it looks like they might have to pay for some of their pollution, they’re crying foul and demanding corporate welfare.

It’s preposterous for coal-fired power stations to expect handouts instead of paying up for the pollution they create. And it will doom the government’s scheme to failure. The sole test of an emissions trading scheme is whether it reduces carbon emissions. Coal-fired power accounts for one third of Australia’s total emissions so we can’t expect to reduce emissions while they continue to pump out greenhouse gases as usual, can we?

The carbon emissions scheme needs to protect Australian households from electricity costs passed on to consumers. And it certainly needs to protect our climate. But it can’t do either of these if it’s designed to protect big business from paying the price of pollution.