Australia, EU consider link on carbon

Sept. 6, 2011 at 2:03 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Aspects of Australia's carbon pricing system could be merged with Europe's emissions trading scheme if negotiations between Australia and the European Union prove successful.

Under Australia's controversial carbon scheme, the country's 500 highest-polluting companies will pay $24 per ton of carbon pollution they emit beginning July 1, 2012. A market-based carbon trading scheme would then be introduced in 2015, allowing major polluters to buy offsetting shares in companies producing emissions less than target levels.

Following bilateral talks in Canberra Monday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said both sides had a "strong mutual interest" in working to expand and deepen global carbon markets.

The EU has had an emissions trading scheme since 2005.

While Australia is one of the highest per capita producers of carbon dioxide, Gillard faces a major fight in passing the carbon legislation when it comes to a parliamentary vote in the autumn. Her plan has been widely criticized by the country's mining and power sectors, and consumer groups argue it will make everyday goods more expensive.

But Barroso praised Australia's scheme, saying both sides have a "strong mutual interest" in working to expand and deepen global carbon markets.

"Australia's decision to put a price on carbon emissions is, in our view, an important step, both environmentally and economically, because in our European experience it is the most cost-efficient way to reduce emissions and also a great, green business opportunity," Barroso said in a statement.

"We will now continue our joint work for a global climate regime, and discuss ... how we could gradually link our emissions trading systems in the future."

Gillard, for her part, said Australia would press for a global carbon market.

''What the (EU) president has said reinforces the depth of the actions that have happened around the world and continue to happen around the world,'' she said. ''The risk to us is we get left behind as the clean jobs, the green jobs, of the future are created."

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, also in Australia, noted Europe's market-based system has worked successfully, despite the financial crisis. When demand for allowances dropped, she said, so did the carbon price.

Gillard and Barroso also affirmed their commitment to address climate change through the ongoing U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks, set to continue in Durban, South Africa, in November.

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