The Federal Government’s carbon tax scheme continues to be a divisive issue for the IT industry, but analyst firms are warming to the newly released climate change plan.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, unveiled the detailed climate plan on Sunday which put a three-year fixed price on carbon and a date the proposed scheme would commence.
From July 1, 2012, the carbon price would start at $23 and rise to $25.40 in the third year. In 2015, a flexible carbon price would be introduced and determined through an emissions trading scheme (ETS). The top 500 local polluters will be the first to start paying up.
Support will be provided to most households and small businesses. Revenues from the sale of carbon permits will be invested back into clean energy programs. Industries that were slated to suffer the most under the carbon tax such as the mining and steel manufacturing sectors will receive some tax incentives in the initial period.
The Coalition has made it clear that it opposes all aspects of the carbon tax scheme.
Professional services and advisory firm, KPMG, has praised the elucidated climate change plan.
KPMG special global advisor on climate change and sustainability, Yvo De Boer, called the scheme “a sensible approach to a complex issue”.
The firm noted the scheme aligned Australia with many of its trading partners since 80 countries including emerging economies such as China and South Africa have committed to capping emissions by 2020.
Anittel managing director, Peter Kazacos, for one was disappointed with the whole carbon tax scheme, claiming it would make the Australian ICT industry uncompetitive on a global scale.
“For example, all datacentres will be taxed here while others around the world will not be, so is the Government going to provide support for us in the international space?” he said.
Kazacos said the industries that had made the most noise against the carbon tax had reaped the rewards while the ICT industry, which has been comparably quiet, had been left out of the planning process.
He also claimed some ICT industry groups may have kept quiet about the issue because they are in favour of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and are unwilling to stir the pot on other Government policies.
Some technology companies may also be tacit because they see business opportunities under carbon tax such as organisations requiring new IT systems to manage their energy consumption, Kazacos claimed.
But IT analyst firms had a much more optimistic take on the carbon tax scheme.
Ovum research director, Steve Hodgkinson, praised the plan.
“It is a sophisticated initiative which encourages organisations to take action and implements mechanisms to soften the effects on households and businesses during the transition period [from a carbon price to a full-blown ETS]”, he said.
The issue now, he claimed, would be the implementation process which is a problem any Government would have when trying to enforce these types of schemes.
In terms of datacentres, Intelligent Business Research Services (IBRS) advisor, James Turner, said datacentre operators would still be competitive under the climate change plan.
“While datacentre managed service providers are worried about how the tax would lower their competitiveness against other countries, at the same time a lot of IT managers actually get a lot of comfort out of knowing their datacentres are hosted locally; that is a competitive advantage there,” he said. “So I don’t think it is correct to say datacenter operators are going to lose out because everybody will ship data overseas.
“Now the pressure’s on for datacentre operators to be running the most energy efficient facilities they can.”
IBRS advisor on business productivity, Guy Cranswick, noted concerns over incremental cost that would probably be passed on by the big polluters but said it is difficult to comment on the impact on the IT industry, particularly the IT services part of the sector.
He was, however, sceptical of claims the carbon tax would be severely detrimental to the IT industry.
“Throughout history, you see these kinds of pleas and complains that certain government rules and regulations would completely end a particular industry,” Cranswick said. “There are comments about how all this is anti-competitive and adjustments are not always easy but it’s not going to necessarily be the end of everything.
He claimed the incremental cost incurred by the carbon tax may be even be easily absorbed by economic growth but cannot comment in detail as there are still questions around the issue which hinge on how the government ends up managing the whole scheme.