NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Rudd's emission trading scheme hits roadblock
, July 11, 2009
The Senate's decision to delay the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme (ETS) will effectively prevent the Rudd Government having in place legislation before the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.
With federal parliament going into its winter recess, the Senate will not consider the matter again until August, and with the combined opposition of the Coalition parties, the Greens and independents, the legislation seems doomed to fail then.
While Mr Rudd can reintroduce the legislation at any time, he is expected to delay reintroduction of legislation to implement his so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) - which actually has nothing to do with carbon pollution - for at least three months.
This will put maximum pressure on the Coalition, whose leader Malcolm Turnbull and environment spokesman Greg Hunt have both supported such legislation in principle. Failure to carry the legislation could be a trigger for a double dissolution, provided at least three months has elapsed between defeat of the legislation a first time and its reintroduction.
But a delay of three months will effectively prevent the legislation being considered twice by the parliament before the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, which will be held from December 7 to 18, 2009.
The political manoeuvrings in Australia are being matched overseas.
The Copenhagen Conference, convened by the UN, is intended to set in concrete national and international commitments to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the decade ahead.
While UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has tried to ratchet up the rhetoric to back a new Kyoto Protocol, which is shortly to expire, fundamental disagreements exist between developed and developing countries as to whether the burden of reducing CO2 emissions should fall on developed countries (e.g., the US, EU and Australia) or whether all countries should be subject to emission controls, what targets should be set, whether targets should be mandatory or not, whether countries' emissions can be offset by carbon-trading, and related matters.
Ban Ki-moon said recently, "The economic crisis cannot become an excuse to abandon commitments [to climate change abatement]. It is even more reason to make them concrete.
"If we are to 'seal a deal' on climate change at Copenhagen in December, we will also need additional resources for climate adaptation and emissions mitigation in developing countries."
Despite the vague rhetoric from Ban Ki-moon and alarmist statements from many climate scientists associated with the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is no consensus on any of these matters.
At a recent United Nations climate conference in Bonn, a resolution supported by India, China and other developing nations proposed that developed nations such as the EU states, North America, Asia and Australia should together commit to a minimum of 40 per cent reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020 from the 1990 levels.
This proposal is far more than the Rudd Government has put forward in relation to Australia's greenhouse policy.
Under its CPRS, the government plans to cut emissions, by the year 2020, to 25 per cent below 2000 levels.
Further signs of trouble between the Obama Administration and China emerged at the recent Bonn meeting. The US and China have yet to resolve the impasse of how much each should contribute to controlling greenhouse gases. Without big steps by the world's two largest sources of emissions, other nations are unlikely to make major efforts.
As a developing country, China insists it will only pursue goals for energy efficiency while it argues that US emissions cuts do not go far enough.
The US legislation, drafted by Democratic representatives Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, is due to be debated in the US House of Representatives shortly.
The legislation calls for a 17 per cent drop in greenhouse gases from 2005 to 2020. As US emissions increased between 1990 and 2005, these proposed reductions are far below what the developing world is pushing for.
Even so, there is widespread opposition to the bills in the US Congress, including from Democrats. Its passage by the Senate (where the Democrats have a clear majority) is considered unlikely.
In the House, rural Democrats threaten to marshal nearly 50 votes against the climate and energy bill backed by the administration. This is not sufficient to defeat the legislation, but it would be an embarrassment for the Obama Administration.
In the Senate, however, the legislation will depend on the votes of Democrats from states such as Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The Democrats are clearly afraid that environmental legislation which increases costs and cuts jobs will cause losses in elections due next year and in 2012.
While all this is going on, in the real world the latest climate figures show that there has been a decline in average global temperatures over the past decade, despite alarmist claims of imminent environmental catastrophe due to global warming.