Monday, May 4, 2009

Polluters' lobbying paid off, says Greenpeace

ABC News Online, 4 May 2009

Environmental group Greenpeace says changes by the Federal Government to its emissions trading scheme reek of industry lobbying.

Today Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced several major changes to the Federal Government's scheme including delaying its start until 2011 and a carbon price of $10 for the first year.

The Government has also raised its emissions reduction target to up to 25 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020, depending on the strength of an international agreement.

Greenpeace climate change campaigner John Hepburn says the Government needs to go back to the drawing board if it is to play a serious role in an international climate agreement.

"It's clear that Rudd has been listening to the big polluters and this is another shift towards the interests of polluters rather than climate action," he said.

"We're rapidly running out of time and we'd like this scheme to go back to the drawing board until Kevin Rudd can stand up to the big polluters and take action in the interests of the Australian people."

Mr Hepburn says Mr Rudd has gotten himself into a "political mess" over the ETS and is looking for a way out.

"He's basically just using climate change as a bit of a political football," he said.

"What we need is much more serious action. We need 25 per cent cuts as a bare minimum but really we need to halve our emissions over the next decade."

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the Government consulted widely before deciding to put back the start date for an ETS.

Ms Gillard says those affected by the change were consulted.

"We've been working intensively with stakeholders to get the carbon pollution reduction scheme right and, having had some further discussions with stakeholders, the Prime Minister has announced some new features today," she said.

'Panicked tinkering'

But changes to the proposed emissions trading scheme have not convinced the Coalition or crossbench senators to allow it through the Senate.

The Opposition has been calling for the delay of the scheme by at least a year and leader Malcolm Turnbull has described the changes as a "humiliating backdown".

"Only a few months ago Mr Rudd said that any delay in the start of an emissions trading scheme would be reckless and irresponsible both for the economy and the environment," he said.

"This tinkering that he's announced today on a very flawed scheme can be seen really as just a panicked response."

But Mr Rudd says the changes have struck the right balance.

"It addresses the difficulty of the recession now, and a more ambitious target for later on," he said.

The Government still wants legislation for the scheme to pass this year despite the 12-month delay.

But Mr Turnbull says today's changes have not convinced the Opposition to support it.

He has called for the scheme to be examined by the Productivity Commission and does not want Parliament to consider any legislation until after international climate change talks are held later this year.

"The most important thing is that we ensure we have a scheme that is environmentally effective and economically responsible, and that requires more work," he said.

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