Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pressure on Wong to split climate bill

Marian Wilkinson and Jacob Saulwick

Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2009

PRESSURE is mounting on the Rudd Government to rescue its plan to boost Australia's use of clean energy as the Opposition and the Greens vowed to defeat Labor's key climate change package in the Senate this week.

With thousands of jobs at stake in industries such as wind and solar power, the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, is facing growing calls to separate the Government's popular renewable energy scheme from its controversial emissions trading scheme, which faces defeat on Thursday.

''The renewable energy industry ought not to be held up any longer,'' said the Greens senator Christine Milne, who will have talks with the Opposition this week on how to save the renewable energy plan.

Senator Wong insisted on linking the two policies in May and yesterday maintained that both policies needed to be passed by the Senate. ''The Government's position is that it is best for Australia … to have both pieces of legislation passed,'' she said.

However, the Coalition has hardened its opposition to the emissions scheme and is demanding more concessions for big polluters.

Today the Opposition will release economic modelling by the consultancy, Frontier Economics, detailing what it claims will be job losses from the Government's scheme along with the impact on investment and wages.

One suggestion in the report, jointly commissioned by the Coalition and the independent senator Nick Xenophon, is to reduce the impact of the scheme on electricity producers. 

Senator Wong has rejected calls from the electricity generators for more compensation. The generators are largely heavily polluting coal-fired plants.

Last night many of Australia's largest financial companies were backing the Government's scheme. The Investor Group on Climate Change, whose members include Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Catholic Super, said the scheme should be supported.

The chairman, Frank Pegan, warned: ''Waiting to address growing emissions is like putting off a trip to the dentist's - the pain and cost will only increase.''

A coalition of welfare, union and environment groups also called for urgent action on climate change yesterday to support renewable energy.

The campaign includes a video attacking ''dinosaurs'' in Australian politics and business who were blocking the creation of jobs in the clean energy business.

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