SYDNEY, March 7 (UPI) -- Australia's top industry lobby group has called for the immediate removal of the country's fixed carbon tax and to replace it with an internationally linked emissions trading scheme.
The Australian Industry Group, which represents more than 60,000 businesses, said electricity prices in the country would drop 1.5 cents per kilowatt as a result of the switch.
Australia's carbon tax went into effect last July.
Under the businesses that emit 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide or the equivalent in other greenhouse gases are charged $24 per ton. In 2015 it converts to an emissions trading scheme with a floating price starting at a floor of $15.
Australia's emissions targets would still be met if the country were to switch to an internationally linked trading scheme, said the group's Chief Executive Officer Innes Willox, with abatement occurring "wherever it is cheapest," including overseas.
Australia aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent compared with 2000 levels by 2020.
"Full emissions trading without the carbon tax element would slash the uncompetitive burden that has been imposed on Australian industry and the Australian community and which is dampening jobs growth," he said in a statement.
Noting that the group has long argued that an emissions trading scheme "is the most flexible path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least cost," Willox said competitors in Europe are paying around $6 a ton.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Willox said electricity prices have increased 14 percent directly as a result of the carbon tax.
The move suggested by his group will "provide business with certainty," Willox said.
It would cut about $8 million from business costs in the two years until the country was to switch to an emissions trading system "and this is money that business can use at the moment to invest and create jobs at a time when we need it."
"Australia's emitters understandably want cheap carbon, and right now we have record low EU prices," Seb Henbest, the head of carbon-market analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance was quoted as saying by Bloomberg News.
In August, just a month after Australia's carbon tax took effect, Australia and the European Union announced that they would be linking their emissions trading systems.
A full two-way link is to begin by July 2018. In the meantime, an interim link will be established in which Australian businesses will be able to use EU allowances to help meet liabilities under the Australian emissions trading scheme beginning July 2015.