Monday, July 7, 2008

Nelson backs out of 2011 emissions trading

Chris Hammer, Canberra 
The Age, July 8, 2008

HOPES of bipartisan support for an emissions trading scheme have deteriorated sharply, with the Opposition Leader placing new conditions on when the scheme should be implemented.

Brendan Nelson has backed away from the Coalition's pre-election commitment to introduce emissions trading by 2011 or 2012, saying Australia should not start the scheme before major polluters such as China, India and Russia commit to reducing emissions.

"It will be an act of environmental suicide, an act of economic suicide, if Australia were to be so far in front of the world implementing an ill-considered, not yet properly developed and tested emissions trading scheme if we haven't got a genuinely global response," he told journalists.

Dr Nelson denied he was changing Coalition policy. But before the election, prime minister John Howard committed to a 2011 or 2012 start date, with his government's Task Group on Emissions Trading concluding that Australia should not wait until a genuinely global agreement had been negotiated.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd accused the party of changing its position every time the headlines changed.

"The Liberal Party is engaged in short-term politics when it comes to the (trading scheme), which is bad for the economy and bad for the environment," he said.

Howard-era environment minister Ian Campbell criticised Dr Nelson for engaging in "populist politics".

"The Opposition will need to decide … if it plays the same sort of populist, short-term game as Labor played on tax, or whether it wants to maintain the stringency on what it had in government, which was to implement a high-quality ETS," he told The Age.

The Government is sticking to its pre-election promise of a 2010 start date, although senior ministers used qualifying words yesterday. Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said 2010 "remains our intention" and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told Melbourne radio: "That is the ambition."

The Government's independent climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, said he supported the push to start emissions trading in 2010.

"I don't think we will have a better scheme by putting it back," he said in Perth.

Professor Garnaut took time out from a public forum to hit back at NSW Treasurer Michael Costa, who described his climate change draft report as containing "patent nonsense" and "Chicken Little arguments".

The professor described him as a "denier of climate change science".

Mr Costa wants electricity generators to be given free permits in an emissions trading system, a position rejected by Professor Garnaut. NSW is moving to privatise electricity generators and is concerned emissions trading will lower their value.

A Victorian Government spokesperson said the state wanted to ensure the Federal Government understood the impact of emissions trading on electricity generators.

With AAP

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