Climate change and consumers

The government needs to play a much greater role in helping households to improve energy and water efficiency.
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  • Updated:6 Mar 2009

01 .Energy and Equity - Climate change and consumers


The issue

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing Australian society today. The impacts of climate change will be particularly harsh on low-income households and disadvantaged communities.

Reducing our consumption of natural resources is essential to lessening the impact of climate change.

A key government response to climate change will be an Australian emissions trading scheme – called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – starting in mid 2010. Emissions trading will reveal a carbon price, which will increase the direct cost of energy and indirectly most goods and services. Read our Beginner's guide for more about the scheme.

What we want

Reducing our consumption of energy and water now will smooth the transition to a carbon constrained economy.

While individual consumers can and do make a difference in the choices they make, we believe that all levels of government need to play a greater role in helping households, especially low-income households, to improve energy and water efficiency.

Since carbon pricing will increase the costs to consumers of essential services like electricity, it’s critical to ensure costs are not borne disproportionately by low income households. We need tariff structures and safety nets that recognise the essential nature of energy and water, while pricing to encourage efficient consumption.

"The case for substantial measures to reduce the impact of the [emissions trading scheme] on living standards of low-income households is strong” – Garnaut Climate Change Review.

Energy efficiency is the quickest and cheapest way to cut greenhouse pollution. And our report finds that an energy efficient home can still be significantly better off, despite facing higher unit energy costs.

These massive programs required for energy efficiency and compensating disadvantaged households could be funded by revenue from auctioning carbon permits in the emissions trading scheme.

It’s important the Government starts now on the big job of helping consumers prepare for the low-carbon economy, rather than letting the timing and size of complementary measures be conditional on emissions trading revenue which is uncertain and won’t come until later. 

What we’re doing

CHOICE, ACOSS and ACF have joined forces to find fair responses to this challenge that benefit all Australian households, including those on low incomes. We've now published a report Energy & Equity - Preparing households for climate change: equity, efficiency, immediacy.

We've made submissions to the Government's 2020 summit on Climate Change, and the Garnaut Climate Change Review.

CHOICE has joined the ACF campaign Who On Earth Cares to express our concern about climate change.

CHOICE will not support an emissions trading scheme that fails to guarantee social equity for householders and does not deliver meaningful emissions reductions that ensure Australia plays its part in averting dangerous climate change. 

 Energy and Equity



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02.Recommendations made by the energy and equity report


Recommendations made by the Energy & Equity report


Download the CHOICE, ACF and ACOSS report Energy & Equity – preparing households for climate change: efficiency, equity, immediacy


Improve energy efficiency for households by addressing awareness and behaviour, home modifications, standards for buildings and appliances, and upgrades for equipment and appliances.

A massive new national program could leverage significant private sector investment to retrofit all Australian homes within a generation. Such a program should aim to retrofit five percent of existing homes a year and should include:

  1. Effective and regularly evaluated education campaigns on the most effective means to achieving, and subsequent benefits of, energy and water efficiency.
  2. Home audits of energy and water use that result in recommendations for behaviour change and physical improvements and referral to sources of assistance.
  3. Financial and other assistance for low income households to implement measures that improve water and energy efficiency.
  4. Improved labelling on products and appliances so that initial and second hand purchasers can make informed decisions about energy efficiency at the point of purchase.
  5. Financial and taxation incentives to encourage landlords to retrofit properties to improve energy and water efficiency.
  6. Improving energy and water efficiency in public housing.
  7. Mandatory energy efficiency standards in all new buildings.


Implement an equitable and efficient emissions trading scheme that drives emission reduction. A well designed emissions trading scheme should have environmental integrity, provide business certainty and guarantee social equity. An emissions trading scheme should be designed and have regard to complementary measures that:

  1. Improve energy efficiency for households that account for awareness and behaviour, home modifications, standards for buildings and appliances, and upgrades for equipment and appliances.
  2. Develop tariff structures that appropriately recognise the essential nature of energy and water while pricing to encourage efficient consumption.
  3. Establish safety net provisions to ensure that low income households have the opportunity to improve efficiency but are not burdened with price increases for essential services. One way to do this would be through the recycling of revenue from permit auctioning from a well designed emissions trading scheme. The revenue could be used to provide assistance and incentives to adjust, compensate those low income households who are adversely affected, encourage research and economic development.