by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) May 31, 2011
Australia's top climate adviser Tuesday urged an immediate tax on carbon pollution and a shift to emissions trading by 2015, warning that the "historic" reforms should not fall prey to vested interests.
Delivering his final report to the government, economist Ross Garnaut cautioned that Australia's efforts to tackle pollution lagged other developed nations and had been set back still further by the Asia-driven mining boom.
Major economies including the United States, Japan and the European Union had made "ambitious, if not strong" pledges to reduce emissions, while China, the world's largest emitter, had already seen "considerable success", he said.
By contrast, Australia's emissions projections had increased by four percent since 2007 to 24 percent above 2000 levels by 2020 due to its surging resources sector.
Heavily reliant on coal-fired power and mining exports, it is one of the world's worst per capita polluters.
"An historic choice confronts Australia now in its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Garnaut, who added it was now "beyond reasonable doubt" that climate change linked to human activity was taking place.
Garnaut said carbon emissions should be taxed at Aus$26 (US$28) per tonne from 2012, followed by a transition to an emissions trading scheme in 2015 with a floating price.
Revenues were projected at Aus$11.5 billion in the first year, of which Garnaut said 55 percent should go to compensating households and 35 percent to businesses, with the rest for research and other mitigation measures.
Household assistance would increase to as much as 65 percent by 2022, while subsidies for trade-exposed emissions-intensive industries such as mining would decline as more countries introduced similar measures, he added.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the government-commissioned report, which backs a number of her arguments for a carbon levy and will boost her push to tax polluters from next July.
The plan has met stiff opposition from big business, particularly the mining industry, who warn it will drive investment offshore.
The conservative opposition has slammed it as a "toxic tax" which will hit household incomes, pushing instead for a "direct action" approach involving tree planting and carbon storage in soil.
Garnaut said the political will for action had slumped since 2008, despite evidence mounting in favour of the tax, with debate descending into a "struggle between special interests and the national interest".
"In a political economy already dominated by vested interests, a transparent, market-based carbon price is far less likely to be unduly influenced by private interests than a regulatory approach which provides recurring opportunities for lobbying," Garnaut said of the opposition plans.
"A market-based approach will, for this among other reasons, cost Australians substantially less."
Gillard is ramping up her campaign for a carbon tax, reportedly ordering frontbenchers to "blitz" the public ahead of an announcement on the price in coming weeks.
She received a celebrity boost this week, with Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett joining a television campaign advocating a carbon tax, funded by the unions and eco-leaning Greens party.
Blanchett, a wealthy Hollywood A-lister, came under fire from the opposition and some sections of the media who said she wouldn't struggle with the imposition of a new tax and was out of touch with ordinary Australians.
The mother of three hit back at her critics Tuesday, saying she couldn't "look my children in the face if I'm not trying to do something in my small way and to urge other people.
"Yes, I've been fortunate in my career but that's no reason not to stand up for something that I deeply believe in," she said.
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Carbon emissions at highest levels ever: report
London (AFP) May 30, 2011
Carbon emissions are at their highest ever levels, stoking fears of a global temperature rise over the "dangerous" two degrees Celsius threshold, data seen by the Guardian newspaper showed Monday. Unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency revealed that the world economy's return to growth in 2010 coincided with a 1.6 gigatonne rise in carbon dioxide emissions, the highest ev ... read more
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