Friday, October 29, 2010

Australia Revisits Carbon Tax

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

Australia has broken both a climatic and a political drought this year. In the aftermath of Copenhagen, we saw the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull lose their positions because of the politics of emissions trading.

Turnbull was unable to bring off a negotiated deal for the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme legislation and was dumped by a Liberal Party backlash by sceptics, deniers and opportunists. His replacement as Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has famously called climate change science “absolute crap”.

Rudd was perceived as backing away from his commitment to the “greatest moral challenge of our times” Any ETS was postponed till 2013.

For more on his removal by his own party, please see: Australia: Dramatic Fall of Prime Minister

After a large swing to the Greens in the August Federal elections, Labor formed a minority government promising to reinvigorate its climate change strategy. The Greens won their first House of Representatives seat at a general election and gained the balance of power in the Senate from July next year.

Julia Gillard signs agreement with Greens leader Bob Brown
(Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Australian)
The electorate had rejected Gillard's insipid election proposal for a Citizens Assembly to help re-establish a consensus. The new PM Julia Gillard was forced to beef up the party’s position and established a multi-party parliamentary committee. Its terms of reference include:
1.1. consult, negotiate, and report to the Cabinet, through the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, on agreed options for the implementation of a carbon price in Australia; and

1.2. provide advice on, and participate in, building community
consensus for action on climate change.
Prime Minister establishes Climate Change Committee
The inclusion of a price for carbon was a major change from their election stance. In recent weeks the support a carbon price has gained momentum with this call from the world’s largest miner:
THE boss of Australia's biggest mining company has urged the Federal Government to introduce a carbon tax before the rest of the world.

BHP Billiton chief Marius Kloppers conceded a global move on carbon would come in the future, and Australia needed to move ahead of the curve to stay competitive.
BHP calls for carbon tax
In other political developments, Australia has a new Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, and a new Parliamentary Secretary, Mark Dreyfus. This dynamic duo will hopefully get the government back on track.

Perhaps there is some cause for optimism.

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