Friday, January 30, 2009

Environment groups swing to Coalition

ENVIRONMENT groups are set to launch new campaigns against the Federal Government on climate change, with some now backing the Coalition's attacks on the proposed emissions trading scheme.

The previously close relationship between the environmental lobby and the Labor Party has become strained in recent months, particularly after the Government released details of its carbon pollution reduction scheme, which included lower-than-expected greenhouse targets and multibillion-dollar compensation for major polluters.

Australia's largest environment, welfare, religious and union groups — including the ACTU, the Australian Council of Social Service and the Australian Conservation Foundation — have already met to plan new campaigns, and will hold a national strategy meeting within a fortnight.

"There's going to be a massive civil society push to change the Government's proposed policies," said ACF president Don Henry.

ACF vice-president and Melbourne University professor Peter Christoff shared the concerns of outspoken Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce about the effectiveness of the proposed emissions trading scheme.

"In my view Barnaby Joyce got it right, but for the wrong reasons," Dr Christoff said.

He said that in its current form, the scheme provided a "dangerous illusion" of effective action. "Without further changes, it should be opposed."

Greenpeace also plans to campaign against the current emissions trading proposal.

Online activist group GetUp — which in the past has been accused of being a Labor front because its board members used to include federal MP Bill Shorten and millionaire former Victorian MP Evan Thornley — said it was keen to work with the Coalition on climate policy.

"We believe that much of Malcolm Turnbull's policy is right, particularly on complementary measures such as a focus on energy efficiency and investment in renewables," said GetUp's national director, Simon Sheikh.

"I think Kevin Rudd has been fixated on the emissions trading scheme, when the real answers lie outside it."

Senator Joyce, who still questions whether climate change is real, was delighted to hear that green groups were coming out against emissions trading.

"The thing that myself and the green groups agree on for different reasons is that what Mr Rudd has conjured up is totally pointless … He's managed to do something peculiar, and that's unify both sides of the debate in saying what he's proposing is completely ridiculous," Senator Joyce said.

The backlash comes at a difficult time for the Federal Government, as it tries to sell the merits of its emissions reduction plans amid worsening economic forecasts.

A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said that "tackling climate change is a tough economic challenge", but that the Government's policies sought to get the balance right.

More than 100 grassroots climate action groups will meet in Canberra this weekend, with a protest at Parliament House on Tuesday.

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