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THE Federal Government has shrugged off criticism from its own climate change expert adviser that its emissions trading scheme is too weak and panders to vested business interests.
High-profile economist Ross Garnaut, who was hired as the Government's climate change adviser, last week warned that there was "no public policy justification" for $3.9 billion in unconditional payments to electricity generators. He also condemned the Government's failure to embrace a more ambitious target to reduce emissions.
Responding to the criticisms, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday said Professor Garnaut was entitled to his views, but said that the Government "makes no apology" for protecting the economy and jobs.
"In terms of assistance to generators, the judgement the Government made is that it is necessary to secure the investment environment in the electricity sector," Senator Wong said.
The Government last week unveiled an emissions trading plan aimed at cutting emissions to between 5 and 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.
"Minus 15 (per cent) off 2000 levels represents a 41 per cent reduction for every man, woman and child in Australia, over the period 1990 to 2020," Senator Wong said.
Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said Labor had been caught out setting up false expectations that it would take tough action on climate change.
In a reference to Monty Python's Life of Brian, Mr Hunt said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was "not the Messiah when it comes to climate change, he's just a very naughty boy".
"It's about the impression of activity, clothing it with a moral purpose and then the failure to deliver practical action," he said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Greens are arguing that the policy should be reviewed following Professor Garnaut's criticism.
"It is essential that the Government admits that it has got the scheme completely wrong, and immediately review its weak targets and its shocking bias and generosity to the big polluters," Greens senator Christine Milne said.
But the Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said more onerous targets should not be inflicted on working families and that the subsidies provided to business under the scheme would prevent jobs from leaking overseas.
"The Government is trying to deal with twin crises at one time — climate change and the economy," Mr Howes said.