Australia’s parliament rejected a plan for the world’s most ambitious emissions trade regime as expected yesterday, bringing the nation closer to a snap election and prolonging financial uncertainty for major emitters.
Conservative lawmakers holding the largest block of votes in the Senate joined with Greens and independents to defeat the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme set to start in 2011 and aimed at reducing emissions in the biggest per-capita emitter in the developed world.
But the government renewed its pledge to push through the scheme before a December UN meeting in Denmark, where world nations will try to hammer out a broad global climate pact and where Canberra is eager to take a leading role.
“This bill may be going down today, but this is not the end,” Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told the Senate. “We will bring this bill back before the end of the year because if we don’t, this nation goes to Copenhagen with no means to deliver our targets,” Wong said before the vote.
Greens wanted tougher emissions targets, while conservative opponents are divided on the need for a scheme and want it delayed until after Copenhagen, fearing Australia will be disadvantaged if other nations fail to act on climate change.
In a sign some major industrial emitters are fearful of months more uncertainty over the scheme’s A$12 billion (US$10 billion) estimated cost, the second-largest power retailer warned of a possible energy supply crisis without a speedy resolution.
“The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the [carbon-reduction] legislation is delaying both the investment necessary to meet Australia’s long-term baseload electricity needs and the investment in lower-carbon technology required to gradually reduce Australia’s emissions,” Origin Energy said.
“We remain convinced the CPRS legislation provides the framework for a good, workable scheme,” it said.
Surveys most Australians favor action to combat climate warming.
Rudd has promised emissions cuts of 5 percent to 25 percent on 2000 levels by 2020, with the higher end dependent on a global agreement to replace the UN’s Kyoto Protocol.
Meanwhile, China will make “controlling greenhouse gas emissions” an important part of its development plans, the government said, as pressure on the world’s top emitter grows ahead of global talks on tackling climate change.
The broad intentions set down in a report from a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday were made public as Beijing proceeds with negotiations seeking a new global pact to fight climate change.
The meeting, chaired by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), said global warming threatened China’s environmental and economic health, newspapers reported yesterday.
The meeting stressed the “urgency” of tackling climate change and called for domestic objectives to control greenhouse emissions, though it made no mention of emissions cuts.
The report did not give any time span under consideration either.
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