THE unveiling of a long-awaited US Senate bill to establish an American emissions trading scheme shows Australia is being left behind in terms of action on climate change, say environmentalists.
The bill would establish a US emissions trading scheme to cut America's carbon emissions by 17 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.
Details of the closely guarded bill were leaked before the announcement. Draft documents posted on US websites yesterday showing the bill would set a minimum price of $US12 ($13.40) and a maximum price of $US25 a tonne of carbon in the first year of the scheme in 2013.
The price floor and ceiling on carbon would then rise 3 and 5 per cent above inflation every year, respectively. The carbon price, which includes power plants and industry from 2016, makes the US scheme similar in part to Australia's now shelved emissions trading scheme.
The US bill would also expand offshore oil drilling, give incentives for the expansion of nuclear and renewable energy, and return two-thirds of money generated by the scheme to consumers as compensation for price rises.
A border tariff that taxes imports from countries that have not established a carbon price, including Australia, would also be established. The proposal faces a tough challenge passing Congress. Most Republicans oppose the bill.
The Australian environment movement said the bill highlighted a stark contrast between the progress made in the rest of world on climate change and the Rudd government's decision to shelve its plans for an emissions trading scheme until at least 2013.
Erwin Jackson, the deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute, said it highlighted that Australia was ''the first developed country to backtrack on climate change action''.
A spokeswoman for the Climate Minister, Senator Penny Wong, said: ''Provided there is sufficient progress internationally, especially from China, India and the US, the government expects to legislate the [scheme] in 2013.''