Sunday, June 28, 2009

Coalition considers emissions trading deal

Michelle Grattan

The Age, June 29, 2009

THE Opposition has flagged it may consider a deal on the Government's emissions trading scheme when it comes to a Senate vote in August, as the Age/Nielsen poll shows overwhelming support for the scheme.

Only 25 per cent oppose it, while 65 per cent back the scheme, on which a vote was deferred last week. Of those opposed, the main reasons were that Australia should not go it alone, it would damage the economy, climate change is not caused by human activity and the emissions reduction targets should be larger.

Labor voters (79 per cent) and Green voters (74 per cent) are more in favour than Coalition supporters (46 per cent). Women are more likely to back the scheme than men, and those over 55 are less likely to support the scheme than younger voters.

The Opposition's policy has been that a Senate vote should wait until after the December Copenhagen conference. But the passage late Friday of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill through the US House of Representatives — it still has to pass the US Senate — is increasing the heat on Mr Turnbull to try to cut a deal early.

Mr Turnbull said that over the winter parliamentary recess Frontier Economics was being commissioned to do a detailed study of the sectoral and regional impacts and compare it with different approaches.

The Opposition has joined with independent senator Nick Xenophon to commission this study.

"Given that Mr Rudd is not prepared to do the sensible thing and postpone the completion of the scheme until next year, until after the Americans have finalised their position enough in Copenhagen, it will enable us to come back with amendments that we would propose to the legislation" he told the Ten Network.

Mr Turnbull suggested possible amendments the Opposition would present include more support for coal mining and carbon capture in soil and trees.

Asked whether he would have a position by August, he said the Opposition had a range of criticisms but "we will be able to present amendments and hopefully the Government will accept them. If the Government doesn't accept them, then, of course, we'll have to work out what happens next".

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the US development was "good news for the world".

"To those who are delaying action in the Australian Parliament, look at what is happening in the United States," he said. "And rather than voting not to vote, which is what the Liberals have done here, let's get on with the business of acting and getting things done".

The Minerals Council of Australia's chief executive Mitch Hooke said the design of the US legislation "highlights the need for substantial changes" to Australia's proposed emissions trading scheme.

He said the US scheme would auction between 15 and 18 per cent of permits in the first decade. In contrast, the Australian scheme would auction between 70 and 75 per cent of permits from day one.

The Australian Conservation Foundation's executive director Don Henry agreed that Australia could learn from the US, but for different reasons. "It's a little more comprehensive in that it includes stronger energy efficiency and fuel efficiency measures as well," he said.


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