Australia: Carbon tax goes ‘lock, stock and barrel’, says Greg Hunt after call to keep ETS
04 July 2014
Posted by: Author: Katharine Murphy
Author: Katharine Murphy (The Guardian)
Environment minister rejects Ross Garnaut’s call to preserve ETS with floating price and allow use of international credits
The Abbott government is continuing to resist entreaties to keep some of Labor’s carbon pricing architecture, with the environment minister, Greg Hunt, declaring repeal will more than likely proceed after the new senators take their places.
Ross Garnaut – a key climate policy adviser to the former Labor government – on Friday urged the new government to preserve a system of emissions trading with a floating carbon price, and allow the use of international credits.
Garnaut reasoned this position would allow Australia to keep pace with international climate commitments, and also maintain a core climate policy, given the Senate’s opposition to the Coalition’s Direct Action alternative.
"I suggest that all parties consider the advantages of keeping the emissions trading system structure established by existing legislation, remove the fixed price, and for the time being allow unlimited access to United Nations CDM credits,” Garnaut told a conference in Melbourne.
"The price of emissions permits would fall to less than a dollar. The Climate Change Authority would advise on targets as required by existing legislation.”
But Hunt told the same conference: "I respect Ross’s view but the tax goes, and it goes lock, stock and barrel.”
The environment minister said without being presumptuous or banking the result before it happened, it appeared the numbers were there in the new Senate for repeal.
Hunt said Australia wanted to be part of "a good international agreement that brings the big emitters in” – but he said the most likely outcome of current international discussions would be a pledge and review agreement at the end of next year, rather than legally binding targets.
He argued the Coalition’s climate policy was actually a market mechanism that provided incentives for polluters to reduce emissions, while Labor’s "tax” was a penalty-based scheme.
The government is banking on achieving repeal in the Senate either next week or the week after with the support of the Palmer United party voting bloc. The PUP leader, Clive Palmer, has indicated he will allow the fixed price scheme to go provided that power companies prove they have reduced electricity prices by the full amount of the carbon tax.
But Palmer also wants to establish a new emissions trading scheme, with the price set at zero until Australia’s key trading partners – China, the US, the European Union, Japan and South Korea – have comparable carbon pricing schemes.
On Friday, Palmer took to Twitter to reinforce the fact he wanted to preserve an emissions trading framework to replace Labor’s clean energy package. "I urge Tony Abbott govt to adopt Palmer United party amendments to ETS. Australia needs ETS in line with our major trading partners,” Palmer tweeted.
The new senators take their places in the chamber next week, but the matter of when repeal actually proceeds remains somewhat in flux.
A Senate committee report on the repeal bills is due to be tabled on 14 July. The government said on Friday the carbon bills could not be debated until the Environment and Communications Committee was able to table its report.
The government is objecting to stalling around the tabling of the committee report. The manager of government business, Mitch Fifield, said on Friday the committee report was actually completed and therefore should be tabled early next week to allow the chamber debate to proceed.
"We understand Labor and the Greens refused to participate in a meeting of the Environment and Communications Committee this morning, therefore depriving the committee of a quorum and stopping it from passing motions,” Fifield said.
"The committee has finished its report on the carbon tax package of legislation and sought to table it before Monday, to allow debate to get underway as promptly as possible – but the underhand tactics of Labor and the Greens have so far prevented that.”
This article first appeared on theguardian.com.