ETS lacks strong support

As climate change was the biggest issue last federal election I assumed that an emissions trading scheme (ETS) – what the government calls a carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) – would be generally popular, but with pockets of resistance, mostly amongst Liberal and National voters..

That's not how it works at all.

Our responses were almost evenly balanced between supporters and opponents with 40% approving and 39% disapproving. More or less a dead heat. But it gets worse for the proponents.

When I analysed the qual from respondents I found that of those who strongly approved, 18% had reservations, while 28% of those who approved did as well. 31% of those who were unsure also expressed reservations as did 46% of those who neither approved nor disapproved. So, opposition is almost the same as support, but supporters are equivocal about the benefits.


A break-down by major parties shows that while I was correct about the Liberal and National opposition (to which I’ve had to add "Liberal National" because of Queensland), there is also significant opposition amongst Greens, Independents, and Undecideds.


The net approve is slightly better than for the total sample because of the categories that I had to exclude because they were too small for the result to be meaningful.

The qual showed that there were a number of grounds for opposition, but overall the pattern is consistent with what has occurred overseas when charges have been imposed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. While voters agree that something needs to be done about the issue, most of the policies that are implemented are seen as primarily an attempt by government to increase its tax take. Voters therefore reject the measure while accepting that something needs to be done.

The "hardest" opposition is probably from those who believe that CO2 is not a risk. While a minority they appear to be a substantial minority. Their number is much larger than recent polls, such as this one from Newspoll, suggest they should be.

Apart from that opposition rests on three major premises. One is that the policy will be ineffective. Another is that it will impose unacceptable costs on the economy.

The effectiveness argument has a number of variations. Many respondents, most particularly Greens, think that the targets have been set too low. So, while the scheme might achieve the targets, this is seen as insufficient. A typical comment was that the measure was "a good start".

The market-based nature of the measure contributes to the view that the scheme is ineffective. Many respondents cannot see how you can reduce emissions while allowing "big" emitters to pay to continue to emit. They also thought that it was more likely to be designed to make money for middlemen than to reduce emissions. There was support for a carbon tax, rather than a trading scheme.

Another common comment about the system was that it was so complicated that people did not understand it, which resulted in resistance.

The economic arguments centred on the increase in costs and the need to have a scheme that is global, rather than just domestic. Respondents were concerned that industries and jobs would move overseas under the ETS. Traditional concerns about Australia being a small isolated economy also played a part in this.

The Leximancer Map illustrates how these themes interact. The three themes closest to those who approve are Start ("at least this is a start"), Market and Change ("we need to change things"). So while change represents their urgency, the other two themes relate to reservations. Emissions is the theme right at the centre of the map, which is to be expected.


Those who disapprove are at opposite poles on the map. One group is associated with the theme Big. The word "big" is almost always associated with "polluters", "emissions", and "companies". This is the concern that large corporates will get away with something.

The group who most strongly opposes the ETS is associated with Global and Tax. Global is a theme that is also close to those who strongly approve. It stands for global warming, but there is also a strong component of concern for how Australia is affected in a global context explaining why it is relevant to both groups.

Tax has two separate uses. One is by those who believe that a carbon tax would be a better solution. The other is that an ETS is a tax, and the last thing that Australia needs at the moment. The former is a strong theme amongst Greens voters, the latter amongst Liberals and Nationals.

The final theme is Work, which means at one level that respondents don’t think the scheme will work, and at the other that it is too complicated for them to understand it. This theme is most closely associated with those who neither support nor oppose the scheme, or who are unsure.

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0 #11 CommentIain Hall 2009-02-12 17:35
ETS schemes are disliked, even by true believers in AGW because even blind Freddy can see that they have no chance of doing what they claim to do, which is to reduce the proportion of atmospheric Co2.
Rudd and his cronies would have more credibility if they just dropped such nonsense. By all means lets make our use of energy more efficient but making it more expensive will not achieve anything except to line the pockets of the shonks and spivs who have led teh world into this recession.
0 #12 CommentConcerned taxpayer 2009-02-12 22:27
What incentive does an ETS provide to an organisation to invest further in research and development to investigate viable alternatives. It doesn't!!

What incentive does an ETS provide a consumer with to change to an alternative?
Well given there aren't many realistic alternatives to the consumer, then an ETS doesn't provide any benefit to the punter!

So all that's going to happen is we, the consumer, will pay more for what we get now, with no change expected in the future!
0 #13 CommentGreg Ernst 2009-02-14 23:19
Carbon trading credits are a load of crap - did we consider smoking credits or drug trafficing credits or rape credits? - fortunetly why let offenders buy there way out, and even assist them to carry on as if it is "business as usual"? The only chance we have is to act now, legislate for realistic non-extinction emmission levels and fine/jail those who do not comply.
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You problems won't go away if you stay arranging nothing! Become involved in your academic career improvement, turn to writing a research paper organization.