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Top adviser urges Australia carbon tax
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) May 31, 2011

EU carbon emissions plummeted in 2009: official
Paris (AFP) May 31, 2011 - Greenhouse-gas emissions by the 27 members of the European Union (EU) fell by 7.1 percent in 2009 over 2008, driven by economic recession but also a switch to renewable energy, the European Environment Agency (EAA) said on Tuesday. Emissions of the 15 countries that signed up to the Kyoto Protocol before EU enlargement fell by 6.9 percent in 2009 over the previous year, it said in a press release. Their target under Kyoto is an overall reduction of eight percent for the 2008-2012 period compared with the benchmark year of 1990. By the end of 2009, their emissions were 12.7 percent below those of 1990.

For the EU 27 -- which includes former Soviet-bloc countries that shuttered energy-inefficient plants after the transition to market economics -- the fall over 1990 is 17.4 percent, the equivalent of 974 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The Copenhagen-based EAA said the 2009 recession "affected all economic sectors" in the EU 27, leading to a slump in particular in demand for coal, the dirtiest of the main fossil fuels. By sector, the biggest emissions reductions occurred in manufacturing industries, construction and electricity and heat supply. At the same time, consumption of renewables rose by 5.8 percent. "Although much of the decrease in greenhouse gases is due to the recession, we are starting to see the results of many EU and member states' proactive policies in renewable energy," the EAA's executive director, Jacqueline McGlade, said.

As for the EU's 2010 emissions, data from Europe's Emissions Trading System (ETS), a carbon market covering more than 12,000 power plants and factories, point to a three percent increase over last year compared to 2009. "This rebound in emissions partly reflects the economic recovery," the EAA said, contending however that the figure "is still far below pre-recession levels." On Monday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said carbon dioxide emitted by energy use hit a record high in 2010, badly affecting hopes of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). After dipping in 2009, emissions from energy climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five-percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, the agency said. Non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries accounted for 60 percent of the 2010 energy emissions total and for 75 percent of the year-on-year increase, the IEA said.

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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