Decision Time for Australia's Emission Trading Scheme
Photo: Australian Parliament House by noodlesnacks via wikipedia.
The Australia Labor Government want to front up to the Copenhagen with their backpocket sprouting an emissions trading scheme (ETS) approved by the Australian parliament. The Liberal/National Coalition party in opposition are in turmoil as to whether they'll approve such a thing. Because politically they are over barrel, no matter which way they vote.
They know Australians want action on climate change. The Opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, has even declared publicly (and maybe prophetically), "I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am." Opposition Angst
Aside from any personal views he might hold, as environment minister in the previous government, Malcolm Turnbull is well aware action on climate change was a significant part of the reason Australia voted Prime Minster Kevin Rudd and his team into government two years ago. Yet many in the Opposition are ardent global warming skeptics. But if they vote against the government's bill, the government could then use this as an excuse to suspend parliament and call for a fresh national election. Which the polls suggest the current government would retain comfortably, further prolonging the political wilderness the Liberal/National Coalition parties seem set to endure.
No room for complancency
Not that the government can be complacent either. They must show the Australia populace that something is being done about climate change. Not the average Australian on the street is likely to know just what an emissions trading scheme entails. But even a five per cent reduction in carbon emissions is a sign of action. Plus it gives Kevin Rudd something robust and tangible to take Copenhagen, which otherwise looks like its going to be as substantial as the pink Fairy Floss sold at the circus.
Greens want more
The Greens party on the other hand is saying the Governments ETS is pathetic and delivers no real action on this critical issue. Greens Senator Christine Milne says "It is not the solution that the climate needs," she said. "It locks in failure." The Greens are even more incensed that a middle ground deal appears to been struck with the Government agreeing to a raft of amendments from the Opposition, so long as they vote for the bill as a whole.
Key amongst those amendments are permanently excluding agriculture from the ETS, roughly doubling the 'assistance' the government will provide to the coal industry to adjust to the system, and again more than doubling the polluting permits that wil be available to power generators. Read more here about the amendments.
Riskiest course of action
The Australian Prime Minster, Kevin Rudd, has ramped up the rhetoric to pressure the Liberal/National Coalition to allow the scheme to pass both house of parliament declaring the issue of climate change a "fundamental, existential question". He called on the Opposition to, "Act for the future, not for the past. Act for your children. Act for your grandchildren." He said, "Failing to act today is the riskiest course of action available to the Parliament. Failing to act today is to roll the dice on our children's future .. I will not take that risk."
The Government will ask Parliament to vote for the emissions trading scheme bill this week.
NB: This post was originally written up on Tuesday, Australian time, although not posted then, as developments were continuing apace. As of midday, Wednesday, the Opposition had reached no clear resolution on their approach to climate change. Speculation is afoot that a leadership might result over the issue. Kevin Andrews (currently chairman of the Coalition Policy Review) is apparently throwing his hat into the ring: The ABC report him saying, he was "quite sceptical" on whether humans were causing climate change. "The jury is still out."
More Australia Climate Change Politics
• Massive Civil Disobedience in Australia Over Climate Inaction
• Australia: The Politics of Environment - A Brief Round-Up
• Climate Change to Cause "Cultural Genocide" for Australia's Aborigine
• A Democracy at Work: Australia Votes on Climate Change*