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Australia to address price on carbon

Sept. 1, 2010 at 2:58 PM

CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Australia's Green Party agreed Wednesday to support the Labor Party in return for the formation of a dedicated climate change committee charged with establishing a price on carbon.

The deal comes amid Australia's first hung parliament in 70 years after the Aug. 21 national elections failed to produce a clear victor.

Members on the cross-party committee on climate change must acknowledge that "reducing carbon pollution by 2020 will require a carbon price," The Guardian newspaper reports.

The issue of carbon was pivotal in the political demise of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who had shelved his emissions trading scheme in April and was ousted in June. In her acceptance speech, his predecessor Julia Gillard said she would seek consensus towards a price on carbon.

Australia has surpassed the United States as the world's biggest per capita carbon emitter.

"This agreement is a replacement of both the Labor and Greens commitments to dealing with climate change," said Greens leader Bob Brown.

"We have set up a process that will set up a carbon price and tackle climate change," Brown said. "It will be inclusive and there will be other parties involved."

During the previous Parliament the Greens rejected Labor's plans for a climate change bill, saying that its proposals for an emissions trading scheme were not ambitious enough.

Liberal leader Tony Abbott, who has consistently opposed any form of emissions trading or carbon tax legislation, for his part said on Wednesday that there would be a carbon tax, a mining tax and "there will never be offshore processing."

Environmental groups welcomed news of the committee.

"This committee, and enshrining an independent Climate Change Commission, can help pull action on pollution and climate change out of the political quagmire," said John Connor, chief executive officer of The Climate Institute, in a statement.

Greenpeace hailed the announcement as a "turning point for long-delayed action on climate change, urging a price be put on pollution "in short order."

"Australians want action on climate change. They want a price on pollution, and they want those currently polluting with impunity to pay that price," Greenpeace Australia Pacific Chief Executive Officer Linda Selvey said in a statement.

Leading climate economist and adviser to the British government Nicholas Stern, speaking to the National Press Club in Australia Wednesday, said the country has much to gain from a carbon price, whether it was a tax or a trading scheme. The revenues, he said, could go toward funding new technologies or to contribute to the U.N. climate-change fund.

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