Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Australia Unveils Draft Emissions Trading Scheme Legislation

There was a flurry of media activity yesterday and today ahead of the release of the Australian Government's Emissions Trading Scheme draft legislation, which was unveiled a short time ago. (Skip to legislation outline)

Last night the Greens and Coalition formed an alliance in regards to a senate inquiry into the Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Yesterday, Professor Ross Garnaut, who is the government's climate change advisor, told Four Corners that he is disappointed with the scheme. Professor Garnaut said industries that are the highest emitters of greenhouse gas have had too much influence over the scheme and that the Government's emissions reduction targets are too low.

The Australian coal industry took the opposite stance, crying foul, saying it had been unfairly excluded from receiving free emissions permits - even though it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from the Federal Government. Former treasurer Peter Costello has said the Government should reconsider the ETS in the light of the economic crisis. Malcolm Turnbull would prefer to see a start date of 2012 and Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said he could not see how the legislation would pass.

The ETS is rapidly shaping up to be the issue that defines the Rudd Government's time in power due to its far reaching implications for Australia and for that matter, the world.

However, with all the debate over the ETS, something that not many politicians appear to be keeping in mind according to some green groups is every minute of every day, greenhouse gases are being spewed into the atmosphere at an ever increasing rate; pushing humanity ever closer towards a point of no return from catastrophic climate change. Some say that we've already arrived at that point and that the time for debate is over and radical action from government is needed immediately.

Draft Emissions Trading Scheme Legislation Summary

After months of criticism and heated debated from all corners, the draft legislation for the Emissions Trading Scheme has finally been released and as was expected, the Government has adhered closely to its recent Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme white paper. The following is a brief, simplified outline of the 392 page Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 document:

- The Act will set up a scheme to reduce pollution caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

- The scheme will begin on 1 July 2010, and operate on a financial year basis.

- The scheme is administered by the Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority.

- A person who is responsible for greenhouse gas emitted from 4 the operation of a facility must surrender one eligible emissions unit for each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalence of the gas.

- A person who imports, manufactures or supplies synthetic greenhouse gas must surrender one eligible emissions unit for each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalence of the gas.

- A person who imports, produces or supplies eligible upstream fuel must surrender one eligible emissions unit for each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalence of the potential greenhouse gas emissions embodied in the fuel.

- Each of the following units are eligible emissions units:
(a) Australian emissions units issued under this Act;
(b) certain Kyoto units;
(c) certain non-Kyoto international emissions units.

- Most Australian emissions units will be issued as the result of an auction.

- A national scheme cap limits the total number of auctioned Australian emissions units.

- Some Australian emissions units may be issued free of charge or for a fixed charge.

- Australian emissions units are transferable.

The Emissions Trading Scheme timetable from this point according to the Department of Climate Change's web site at the time of publishing:

March to April 2009: Phase 3 consultation of exposure draft legislation
May 2009: Bill introduced into Parliament
June 2009: Government aims to achieve passage of bill by Parliament at this time
3rd quarter 2009: Act enters into force; scheme regulator established
2010: Emissions trading scheme will commence

While high polluting industries have continually raised the spectre of massive job losses as a result of the implementation of the Emissions Trading Scheme and in spite of the global economic crisis, Australians still appear to be worried about the issue of global warming impacts. According to a survey of 1,400 people commissioned by The Climate Institute, 78 percent indicate concern over climate change. Supporters of renewable energy have said that the economic and climate crisis actually provides a great opportunity for Australia to restructure, a "green new deal", turning jobs with high polluters into careers in clean energy.

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