By Naomi Woodley for PM
ABC News Online, Mon Aug 3, 2009
- Audio: Fed Govt sharpens attack on Oppn over climate change (PM)
The Federal Government is sharpening its attack on Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull ahead of next week's parliamentary vote on an emissions trading scheme.
But a leading environmental group says the latest science means the Government should be focusing on strengthening its scheme.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has delivered a frontal attack on the Opposition's climate change policy.
"There is no policy coherence, no framework, no understanding of the task at hand, no application of the national interest and no economic credibility," she said.
"Mr Turnbull recently emerged from his shadow cabinet draped in a string of wilted fig leaves, which with a euphemistic flourish, he has called design principles for an emissions trading scheme.
"Anyone who has followed this debate knows that principle has nothing to do with it."
Those principles include a call for the Government to offer the same amount of protection for jobs, small business and industry as offered in climate change legislation in the US, known as the Waxman Markey bill.
But Senator Wong says that suggestion is dishonest and unhelpful.
"It is foolhardy to think that Australia can simply photocopy America's response to climate change," she said.
"Not a single business person has suggested to me that they want to see the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme dumped in favour of the Waxman Markey model.
"Our countries are different. Our economies are different. And our respective responses to climate change reflect that simple fact."
Senator Wong says the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme offers more generous compensation than the proposed US bill.
And she has again rejected the Opposition's call for so-called fugitive emissions from coal mining to be excluded from the scheme.
"While Mr Turnbull pretends fugitive emissions get off scot free in the US and Europe, those nations are in fact proposing to deal with fugitive emissions through increased regulation."
But Ralph Hillman from the Coal Association says trying to regulate fugitive emissions would not work any better than including them in the trading scheme.
"You can't regulate them," he said. "The fact is you can't even measure them from an open-cut mine, and at least half of the mines in Australia are open cut.
"And from underground mines you can measure them but it's very difficult in many places to actually abate them, to do anything about it."
Mr Hillman says the Government and the Opposition need to come to some compromise to pass the emissions trading legislation to give business some certainty.
But he says he does not believe that it has to happen before global climate talks at the end of this year.
Opposition emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb says the Coalition does not seek to stall the Government's legislation lightly.
"We've got to get it right," he said.
"It is the biggest deliberate structural change in our history. That's why we've asked the Government to defer the vote until the first parliamentary sitting next year."
He says the Opposition's nine principles warrant serious discussion and reflect months of consultations with concerned industry and community groups.
"The Government's scheme has been rushed, has been rushed for purely political reasons.
"As designed, it will put major industries and the jobs that go with them at great risk, and importantly for little or no environmental gain.
"Commercial realities have been ignored. President [Barack] Obama's plans have been ignored. The scheme is deeply flawed."
Speaking at the same conference as Senator Wong, Mr Robb condemned her speech as indicative of the Government's unwillingness to negotiate.
"The minister used the time to create nine straw men around the nine proposals or principles we put to the Government for discussion, and then unsurprisingly preceded to dismiss each and every one of them out of hand."
Less politics, more action
Don Henry from the Australian Conservation Foundation says both sides of politics need to focus less on attacking each other and more on getting the scheme and the Government's renewable energy target through parliament.
He says after six months of study and debate, the Foundation now believes Australia and the world should be trying to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at 350 parts per million.
"And the reason for that is the climate science that's been published since the authoritative IPCC report is all showing that the world's greenhouse emissions are increasing faster than predicted and they're probably having a bigger impact," he said.
"For example, we're seeing more melting of the Arctic Sea ice than expected."