Lawrence Solomon: Australia may be backing away from cap and trade

Before the Copenhagen conference on climate change, many believed that carbon trading, already underway in the EU, would sweep the western world, with Australia being the next country carbon-trading country. After Copenhagen ended in chaos, it became clear that the U.S. wouldn’t adopt carbon markets and that Canada, which is determined to follow the U.S.’s lead, also would not.

Now, all bets are off in Australia, despite gung-ho Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has staked his reputation on pushing through carbon trading.

”I think there should be a delay in whatever we do until we have a clear picture of the best course,” Dick Warburton, head of the Labour government’s own Expert Advisory Committee on Emissions-Intensive Trade-Exposed Activities,
said in a surprise statement earlier today.

Even before Copenhagen, Australia’s seemingly irrevocable decision to implement its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a cap and trade system that had the support of the Australia’s Liberal Leader of the Opposition, had begun to unravel. In a surprise move, the Liberal leader
was ousted by seemingly fringe back benchers in favour of an outspoken climate change skeptic, Tony Abbott. The newly sceptical Opposition, in what was seen as a mere setback to the cap and trade scheme’s inevitable passage, then voted down the legislation in the Senate. Days later, the newly sceptical Liberals did surprisingly well in winning by-elections in Melbourne and Sydney.

And now, as the governing Labour party is pondering how to redraft its cap and trade legislation for reintroduction to parliament next month, Warburton is moving against it, saying that the country needs a proper understanding of the implications of climate change legislation before
proceeding. ”Chairmen and CEOs and the public have very poor knowledge of what the ETS [Emissions Trading Scheme] involves.” he stated, announcing he is organizing a round-table of corporate executives, government bureaucrats and experts to weigh the merits of carbon trading and to consider alternatives to it – in effect, a counter conference to the government’s expert advisory panel that he chaired last year.

“We need to get it right,” Warburton explains.

Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, January 14, 2010

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