In Australia, does the term "Big Polluters" have any specific meaning?

Here's an example of the phrase being used: The Dinosaurs, by The Climate Institute

Right now, big polluters have to pay for their emissions

1 Answer 1


There's one specific meaning to the phrase.

The Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Labor government targetted a certain number of companies for a carbon price. From The great carbon tax secret: who are the Misfortune 500?

So Ms Gillard was exceedingly careful with her pronouns when she addressed the nation. "Around 500 big polluters will pay for every tonne of carbon pollution THEY put into OUR atmosphere," she said (I've added the capitals, not in order to make that quotation look shouty, but to identify the allocation of responsibility the PM's trying to convey here; WE are getting those polluters to pay for what THEY do to US).

Listen to talkback for 30 seconds and you'll pick up what the general presumption is - a sort of vague impression that Big Polluters and Big Business are pretty much the same thing.

But who are these 500 big polluters, exactly - this Misfortune 500, who are to be history's martyrs to the answering of our generation's greatest moral challenge?

Can we get a list?

No - we can't, according to the Government. The 500 companies are not an identified list. The figure of 500 is just an estimate of how many companies in Australia would be caught by the scheme's eligibility rules.

The Climate Institute has a similar description:

1 July, 2014 marks the second anniversary of the carbon laws – the Clean Energy Act and related laws that price and reduce pollution, invest in renewable energy and support households and business in the shift to a cleaner economy. The laws are working and have delivered impressive results: Australia’s pollution is down; economic growth is up; unemployment and inflation remains under control; and solar and wind energy has soared.

The laws, which began on 1 July 2012, put a limit and price on carbon pollution from Australia's 370 largest emitting entities (large companies and cities/councils). The price is fixed for the first three years, but evolves into an emissions trading scheme on 1 July, 2015.

The laws force Australia’s biggest polluters to take responsibility for their pollution and creates a financial incentive for them to invest in curbing emissions. Revenues raised from the laws is used to help households and businesses adjust to a lower-carbon economy.

The laws also established the independent Climate Change Authority (to give unbiased advice on climate policy) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (to break down barriers to investment in low-emissions technologies).

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