The conservative opposition in Australia, led by the Liberal Party, claims it could achieve reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent over the next decade by investing in tree planting.
Releasing the opposition programme, Liberal Leader Tony Abbott said the single largest opportunity to reduce emissions was through increasing soil carbon.
Plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2
), which is then reduced through photosynthesis so that the carbon component is retained and the oxygen is returned to the atmosphere.
The opposition prefers to bet more on tree planting for GHG reduction instead of forcing the industry to cut down on their emissions and has set a target of 85 million tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide reduction through soil carbons by 2020.
The plan also includes the planting of 20 million trees by that time. But even there arable land would be off limits, so they have to look for vast stretches of waste land to plant so many trees and preserve carbon.
Also businesses that reduce emissions below "business as usual activity" will be able to sell their greenhouse gas abatement to the government and those who go above will incur a financial penalty.
Among the initiatives under what the coalition has called the Emissions Reduction Fund, a range of measures would be also be introduced to support the increased uptake and use of renewable energy in homes and communities. The Coalition have referred to these measures as a "solar sunrise for Australia".
The Coalition says its plan would cost $3.2 billion and cut carbon output by 140 million tonnes by 2020.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd savaged the Coalition's new climate change plan as an unfunded con job that will slug taxpayers and do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.
"It doesn't work, it puts no cap on carbon, it lets all the big polluters go absolutely free. It slugs taxpayers and working families as a result and doesn't even bother to attempt to fund the policy," he said in the parliament.
Mr Abbott, in turn, attacked the government over the ETS scheme. He claims the scheme will cost families about $1,000 a year but Mr Rudd says Treasury figures show the impact at around $620 a year. It also has measures to compensate most families for the rises in energy and cost of living prices.
The Opposition Leader has not revealed how he plans to raise the $ 3.2 million required to implement his own scheme. He only asserts it is possible.
John Connor of the Climate Institute says the Coalition's plan is light on detail.
"There's very little clarity about if this can do anything beyond the 5 per cent to the 25 per cent [emissions cut] which is actually the test of credibility for this plan," he said.
"There's also no long-term plan here. We don't see how this can work beyond 2020 to continually be driving down carbon pollution."
Greens Leader Bob Brown jibed the Coalition's plan to plant 20 million trees was incongruous - after all it was the Regional Forest Agreements initialed when conservatives were in power fostered the destruction of Australia's biggest forests.
Predictably the Minerals Council of Australia has welcomed the Coalition's policy which, they say, is designed to use incentives as a driver to reduce emissions, rather than an approach that is pre-occupied with penalising business to raise revenue.
Coming as a shot in the arm for the aggressive Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, an opinion poll out today shows that the Coalition's primary vote is outstripping Labor's for the first time since the election, although the Government is still in front after preferences.
The Labour government, though uneasy, is still going back to the parliament, with its previously defeated emission trading scheme and a means test for health insurance rebate, both of which are stoutly opposed by the opposition.
Many commentators believe that if both the initiatives are defeated, the government could opt to dissolve the parliament and go to polls. It could emerge winner too given the fact the economy has grown, remaining largely unscathed by the global crisis. But that was before the opposition surge does introduce an element of uncertainty.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon denied that the Labour was looking for a double dissolution trigger. The government is acting in larger interests, she has asserted.
On the means test for health insurance, she said, "We think it makes the health expenditure more sustainable into the future and we think it frees up money to spend it on more strategic and legitimate if you like support perhaps across the system. Maybe it is for cancer patients, maybe it is for new drugs, maybe it is for new technology - something that everybody will benefit from and ultimately I actually have great faith that the public are with us on this."