Lawrence Solomon: Australia won’t cap and trade

Seeing countries around the world back away from their climate change commitments, and seeing his own electoral support crumble, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced today that Australia will be shelving its cap and trade program for at least three years, until after the next election. “That will provide the Australian government at the time with a better position to assess the level of global action on climate change,” he told the Australian press.

In recent weeks, Rudd has been embarrassed by decisions by the US and Japanese governments to put climate change on the back burner and alarmed by the growing opposition at home to climate change legislation. His once popular plans to cut back emissions by 5% by 2020, which were scheduled to begin next year, have been twice rejected by Australia’s Senate faced certain defeat in a third vote that was expected in several weeks.

Once the darling of the environmental movement, Rudd is now widely seen as ineffectual. A poll commissioned by the Climate Institute and the Conservation Foundation found that just 36% of voters saw Rudd as the best person to handle climate issues, and that 40% found no difference between his Labour government and opposition conservatives. Other polling shows the opposition gaining in the public opinion polls, as an increasingly skeptical public turns against the climate change orthodoxy.

By scrapping next year’s cap and trade plan, the Rudd government – and the Australian public – will see benefits in the upcoming budget, expected May 11. With Australians no longer needing to finance the cap and trade program, budget watchers predict a saving of some $2.32 billion.

Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, April 27, 2010

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