Australia divided over carbon trading

By Ritu Gupta
Published: Friday 15 September 2006

new South Wales (nsw) premier Morris Iemma, South Australian premier Mike Rann and Victorian environment minister John Thwaites have recently issued a paper that suggests a possible design for a national emission trading scheme that will cut Australia's greenhouse emissions by 60 per cent over the next 50 years. But Australian prime minister John Howard has criticised the move.

Howard asserted in parliament that the proposal would adversely affect the resource industry, cause unemployment and lead to higher fuel prices. "The data of the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics shows that a 50 per cent cut in Australian emissions by 2050 will lead to a 10 per cent fall in gross domestic product, a 20 per cent fall in real wages, and a 600 per cent rise in electricity and gas prices," he said.

His latest assertion complements his stand on the Kyoto Protocol -- the international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Howard refused to sign the protocol despite Australia being one of the biggest emitters.

Presently, nsw is the only Australian state to have started a greenhouse gas abatement scheme. This mandatory scheme, commenced on January 1, 2003, allows accredited certificate providers to trade emissions from householders in the state. The scheme is still in place despite Howard's clear dismissal of emissions trading as a credible solution to climate change.

The scheme may commence fully in 2010. It offers investment security to the electricity industry and energy-intensive industries. Under the scheme, greenhouse gas emissions from Australia's electricity industry will be capped but electricity generators will be able to buy extra carbon permits to offset emissions through forestry or carbon capture and storage.

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