Monday, May 4, 2009

Rudd denies ETS delay is reckless

Kevin Rudd says his Government isn't acting recklessly or breaking an election promise by delaying emissions trading in Australia.

The Prime Minister today announced the scheme would begin in mid-2011, 12 months later than originally planned.

Late last year, he told Australians that "to delay any longer, to stay in denial as the climate change sceptics and some members opposite would have us do, is reckless and irresponsible".

But the global financial crisis has changed things.

"The global economic reality has worsened fundamentally over the last three to four months," Mr Rudd told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

Asked if he was breaking an election promise, the Prime Minister said his Government was simply making a "slower start" but with better "green outcomes".

The Government has increased the upper limit of its carbon reduction target range to 25 per cent of 2000 emission levels by 2020, if there is global agreement to stabilise levels of carbon at 450 parts per million or less by 2050.

That's up from a maximum 15 per cent cut under the previous scheme.

Some green groups say the stronger 2020 targets means there's now a better chance of achieving a good international agreement at talks in Copenhagen later this year.

Mr Rudd also announced the price of carbon would be slashed from $40 per tonne to $10 per tonne while emissions trading is phased in.

A one-year fixed-price period will run until July 1, 2012, after which full market trading will begin.

"This, we believe, represents an appropriate response to the current uncertainty," he said.

The opposition is likely to claim victory over the delay - it has long argued Labor's 2010 start date should be pushed back by one or two years.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull is due to hold a news conference in Sydney later on Monday.

The Government also announced a new "global recession buffer" will be provided as part of the assistance package for emissions intensive, trade exposed industries.

Industries eligible for 60 per cent assistance will receive a 10 per cent buffer "for a finite period", while industries eligible for 90 per cent assistance will receive a five per cent buffer.

Eligible businesses will receive funding to undertake energy efficiency measures from July 1 this year.

Monday's announcement follows a decision by the Australian Greens to meet the Government half way and lower their demand for a 40 per cut in carbon emissions to 25 per cent.


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