The contribution of carbon pricing to sustainable mining

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Sam Meng
Mahinda Siriwardana
Judith McNeill


Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential to reducing the rate and scale of anthropogenic climate change to levels that can sustain the planet’s biosphere. A carbon tax is a policy measure that is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the prices of the highest carbon-polluting goods and services in an economy, thus encouraging substitution towards resultant relatively cheaper and less-polluting goods where possible. When Australia introduced such a tax in 2012, there was a fear that it could threaten the resources boom, considered the engine of Australian economic growth in recent years. By employing a computable general equilibrium model and an environmentally-extended Social Accounting Matrix, this paper demonstrates the effects of a carbon tax on the resources sector. The modelled results show that, in a flexible exchange rate regime, all resources within the sector will be affected negatively but to different degrees. The brown coal sector will be the hardest hit, with a 25.74 per cent decrease in output, 52.94 per cent decrease in employment and 89.37 per cent decrease in profitability. However, other resources in the sector would be only mildly affected. From the point of view of sustainability, the most significant results are that, under the carbon tax, the resources sector contributes considerably to the carbon emission reduction target of Australia. Given that brown coal accounts for only a small portion of the resources sector, it is reasonable to suggest that a carbon tax would not significantly affect the overall performance of the sector.

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