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Australia's carbon trading bill fails

Dec. 2, 2009 at 6:23 PM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The Australian government's carbon emissions trading scheme failed to win passage Wednesday through the Senate, landing a blow to a key policy of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Rudd had hoped to take his carbon pollution reduction plan in hand to next week's climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, where world leaders will seek a new agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

A number of business groups said the second defeat of the legislation provides an opportunity to get the design right, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The Minerals Council of Australia said the government should now be looking at a scheme that reduces emissions, supports new technologies and protects the competitiveness of Australia's export sectors.

Mitchell Hooke, chief of the Minerals Council of Australia, noted that "not a single cent" of the $120 billion to be raised by the emissions trading scheme was earmarked for developing new low-emission technologies. The scheme, he said, would have cost thousands of jobs and billions of investment while failing to materially reduce global greenhouse gas levels.

The ruling party led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said they would try for a second vote next February.

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, elected Tuesday, said he expects the coalition's position to harden during Australia's soon-to-begin legislative summer break, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"The right time for an emissions trading scheme is when the rest of the world is signed up for one and that way all the economies will labor under the same emissions constraints," Abbott told ABC Wednesday before the Senate's vote.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard, speaking in Rudd's absence, urged decisive action to tackle global warming.

"My message is a simple one. This is a scheme that is in the national interest. We live on the hottest and driest continent on Earth. We're going to be hit by climate change hardest. That is why we designed the carbon pollution reduction scheme," Gillard said.

Australia's emission trading program would have been the biggest of its kind outside Europe, covering 75 percent of Australian emissions. It was due to start in July 2011.

Australians have the highest per capita carbon emissions of any major developed country due to a heavy reliance on coal. According to figures submitted by Australia to the United Nations, the country's emissions from burning fossil fuels have risen by 30 percent from 1990 to 2007.

The Climate Institute, an independent research group, said the legislation's defeat foreshadowed another year of political squabbling.

"It's a sad irony that while the U.S. and China are investing billions in renewable energy and battling over who will lead the clean energy economy, Australian politicians are squabbling in the 'domestic playground' of party politics," said John Connor, chief executive of the institute.

Topics: Kevin Rudd
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