By Chris BergmannThe world is struggling to cope with a record level of air pollution that has forced the world’s largest economy to halt most of its emissions.
A study published in The Lancet medical journal found that the air pollution crisis could cost the world $2.2 trillion a year in lost productivity, and even that cost is not enough to bring the country out of the “paralysis” it has been experiencing.
The study, by the Australian Institute of Technology, has the country at the bottom of a list of nations with the highest number of premature deaths.
The worst-affected nations include China, the world leader in air pollution, and the Philippines, which has seen the biggest number of deaths in terms of premature death.
The top 10 worst-off nations are China, Brazil, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
A report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) earlier this year found that, overall, Australia had the second-highest number of economic losses due to air pollution.
The report said Australia had more than $2 trillion in potential economic losses, but there is no precise data on the impact on the economy.
Australia’s biggest economic losses have been due to the decline in oil prices and the cost of coal power, which is also a major driver of the pollution problem.
The OECD report said that “more than 90 per cent of the economic losses could be avoided if we adopted policies that reduce pollution and energy consumption, including using more renewable and low-emission sources of energy”.
The OECD said it wanted to encourage the world to consider a “global carbon price”.
But Labor says the country’s biggest polluters must pay their fair share.
“This is not a price for clean air, it’s a price that the Australian taxpayer should pay for their dirty air,” Mr Rudd said.
“We will not stand by and allow the pollution of our towns and cities to continue.”
The Greens are calling on the Government to scrap the carbon tax, but not before it is repealed.
“The Government needs to immediately review the carbon price and make sure it is fully funded,” Greens MP Larissa Waters said.
“That is the way to make the economy more resilient and reduce the impacts of climate change.”
Mr Rudd said he did not think the carbon pricing scheme would lead to significant economic growth.
“I think it’s more about the cost and the risk,” he said.
The Government says the carbon charge is an incentive to move to cleaner energy.