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Pressure Mounting On Australia's Ambitious Carbon Trading Plan

Australia's bold plans for a carbon emissions trading scheme are under threat after the conservative opposition in Canberra hardened its stance against it. Critics of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's proposal say it would cost jobs and provoke economic uncertainty for the next 20 years.

The prime minister wants the legislation - a proposal that would become the world's most sweeping emissions trading system - passed by the end of next month.

Under the bill, companies would have to buy permits for every ton of carbon they emit, a system designed to provide financial incentives for those that reduce their pollution. It would cover about 75 percent of emissions from Australia's 1,000 largest polluters.

Critics say that new, independent research proves the system will damage the Australian economy and cost jobs if it is introduced at a time of global recession.

Conservative lawmaker Andrew Robb says the government should delay its controversial plans.

"This report establishes very clearly that the government has got serious work to do to fix this deeply flawed scheme that they have put in place. Do not put in jeopardy tens of thousands of Australian jobs," said Robb.

The left-of-center Mr. Rudd wants the scheme to be working by July of next year.

The measures need the approval of the country's upper house of parliament, the Senate, which the government does not control.

It needs the support of Greens Senators, who argue the scheme does not go far enough to protect the environment.

Climate Change minister Penny Wong is adamant she can convince skeptics to change their mind and that the plans will get parliamentary approval.

"All I can say is that we are determined to act in the national interest and the national interest means that we are determined to get this legislation through," said Wong.

Australia, one of the world's worst per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, warns that without tough environmental measures the country would lose jobs and key industries, including agriculture and tourism.

A long-standing drought, along with recent devastating bushfires and widespread floods have given some scientists more reason to think that the vast continent is likely to be one of the countries hardest hit by a shifting climate.

Skeptics argue, however, that rising temperatures and warmer oceans are part of a natural cycle and are not convinced the changes are a result of man's pollution.