'Australia CO2 plan puts global carbon pricing on track'

In Australia's most sweeping economic reform in decades, government will tax the nation's top 500 polluters A$23 per ton of carbon.

By REUTERS
July 11, 2011 15:54
2 minute read.
Pollution

carbon pollution 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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SINGAPORE - Australia's push to impose an economy-wide cost on carbon pollution gives global efforts to price emissions a boost and will help revive struggling UN talks on a tougher climate deal.

In Australia's most sweeping economic reform in decades, the government will tax the nation's top 500 polluters at A$23 per ton of carbon before moving to a market-based emissions trading scheme in 2015.

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The proposal came after months of venomous political debate and the haunting failure of two previous attempts to price carbon in 2009.

Australia's embrace of a carbon tax, despite fierce political and industry opposition, is a much needed sign of support for carbon pricing.

Lobbies pressing for similar moves in other countries will take heart that Australia -- as the developed world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter on a per-capital basis -- has managed to push this far ahead.

"Other countries will look at one of the most carbon polluting economies on the planet that has made one huge stride forward towards putting a price on carbon," said John Connor, CEO, of The Climate Institute think tank in Sydney.

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"That should be a boost for those who are calling for this everywhere from Japan, South Korea, South Africa through to the United States," he said.

The drama in Australia mirrors that in the United States, Japan and other nations where efforts to price carbon have proved polarising, forcing governments to shelve plans.

If the Australian parliament gives its approval later this year, assuming key government backers don't defect, it will usher in the second-largest carbon scheme outside Europe's $120 billion a year program that began in 2005.

It will boost efforts by Australia's trading partners in Asia as well as New Zealand, which already has an emissions trading scheme and is keen to link its programme with its neighbour. California is aiming to roll out emissions trading from 2013.

"If you are looking for countries where it would have an influence it would be South Korea and Japan because they are both considering emissions trading scheme," said Stephen Howes of the Australian National University in Canberra.

"So if we can influence them, they might then influence China," said Howes of the Crawford School of Economics and Government. China is the world's biggest polluter and its carbon emissions rose 10 percent in 2010.

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