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Australia's carbon trading scheme upset

  |   Dec. 1, 2009 at 4:58 PM
CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Australia's newly elected opposition Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott vowed Tuesday to delay or block the government's carbon emissions trading scheme.

The bill -- rejected by the Senate in August -- aims to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas output by between 5 percent and 15 percent from 2000 levels within 10 years.

Opposition Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull announced last week that his party had backed the revised legislation, which excluded the agricultural sector and doubled assistance to the coal and power generation industries.

That prompted an angry reaction from some Liberal lawmakers, triggering the leadership challenge, in which Abbott won the final vote Tuesday against Turnbull by 42 votes to 41.

Abbott said Tuesday he supported the government's plans to cut emissions 5 percent by 2020, rising to 25 percent if a global deal is reached at the U.N. climate-change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, that begins Dec. 7. But Abbott argued that the proposed emissions trading scheme was a costly and ineffective way of meeting the target.

"This is a $120 billion tax on the Australian public and that is just for starters," Abbott said Tuesday in his first public comments. "It's not an environmental policy, it's a tax policy,'' he said.

The uncertainty of the emissions trading scheme has dealt a blow to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who had been hoping to take a lead role in Copenhagen as one of the few developed nations to have such a law in place before the meeting begins.

"The last thing we should be doing is rushing through a great big new tax just so Mr. Rudd can take a trophy to Copenhagen," said Abbott Tuesday after taking over the leadership.

The Senate is widely expected to vote against the emissions trading scheme in the next few days. While as many as 10 Liberal senators privately support the revised legislation, most are not willing to break party ranks, according to the Herald Sun.

"I would urge all parliamentarians today in Australia -- whatever their political party -- to vote in the national interest, and to vote for action on climate change," Rudd told reporters in Washington. Climate change was included on the agenda during Rudd's meeting Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Australia, the world's largest exporter of coal, has the highest per-capita carbon emissions among developed nations, with an average output of 20.5 tons of carbon dioxide per person each year.

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