Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is pushing back his green agenda by a year. He announced today that his government's carbon emissions trading scheme will come into force only by 2011. Some features of the scheme are also getting diluted. The Australian Premier blames it all on the global economic crisis. This is the first broken election promise of the Labour Party.
But Mr Rudd has also sought to assuage environmentalists.
He's promising a more ambitious target for 2020, but only if the world agrees to a much tougher regime to cut atmospheric carbon to 450 parts per million.
As leader of the Labour Party, Mr.Rudd had gone to elections in November 2007 pledging to do taken on global warming frontally.
Subsequently, unveiling his carbon pollution reduction scheme, he warned: To delay any longer would be reckless and irresponsible for our economy and for our environment.
The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme of the Australian government has two distinct elements - the cap on carbon pollution and the ability to trade. The cap achieves the environmental outcome of reducing carbon pollution. The ability to trade ensures carbon pollution is reduced at the lowest possible cost, the government said earlier.
The package was supposed to "set an overall environmental cap by issuing a set number of permits, and allow entities to trade permits, thereby putting a price on carbon."
The Climate Change department website also proclaimed, "The caps will be designed to place Australia on a low emissions path in a way that best manages the economic impacts of transition, while assuring our ongoing economic prosperity. The scheme will have maximal coverage of greenhouse gases and sectors, to the extent that this is practical. The broader the scheme's coverage, the more cost-effectively it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and more fairly spread the burden of such reductions across the community."
But such rhetoric is yielding place to timorous references to global recession and how Mr. Rudd is helpless in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis, that he can't afford to push the Australian industry too far and so on.
And thus when his country has the highest per capita emissions in the developed world and coal is its biggest export.
The Premier also announced a slew of concessions to the industry, Alexandra Kirk reported for ABC radio.
At the same time, Mr. Rudd also asserted that he was committed to cut emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, up from 15 per cent, but only if the world agreed to an ambitious deal to stabilise carbon dioxide levels at 450 parts per million by 2050.
Describing the announcements as a humiliating back down, Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said, "Indeed this tinkering that he's announced today on a very flawed scheme, can be seen really as just a panic response, policy on the run, as he sees day after day the criticisms of the scheme that he's put forward and the predictions of thousands and thousands of job losses for no environmental gain."
The green lobby too has denounced the changes as unacceptable.