Australia eyes pay-to-pollute scheme

Businesses will have to pay to pollute under Australian government proposals for a carbon emissions trading scheme.

Senator Penny Wong, minister for climate change and water, this month unveiled a Green Paper on the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

She told the National Press Club in Canberra: "The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is a response to climate change that is economically responsible, supports families and prepares Australia for our future challenges."

She explained that climate change threatened not only food production, agriculture and water supplies but the country's multi-billion dollar tourism industry, built on such icons as the Great Barrier Reef and the Kakadu wetlands.

"We confront a daunting reality," she said. "We cannot continue to pour carbon pollution into the atmosphere as if there is no cost. The 12 hottest years in history have all been in the last 13 years.

"As one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, Australia's economy and environment will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we don't act now."

The emissions trading scheme, which the government wants to introduce in 2010, would set limits on how much carbon pollution industry can produce.

The government would then sell permits up to that limit, forcing organisations to look for cleaner energy sources.

Money from permit sales would be used to help households and businesses move to cleaner energy sources, Senator Wong explained.

"Placing a limit and a price on pollution will change the things we produce, the way we produce them, and the things we buy," she said. "It will open new doors to a cleaner energy future."

To soften the impact of any fuel price rises associated with the scheme's introduction, she said the government will initially cut fuel taxes.

Payments to those on benefits will also be boosted and low and middle-income households helped through the tax system to ease the effect of any increases in the cost of living resulting from the scheme.

"After so many years of inaction, it is impossible for Australia to be in front of the rest of the world in tackling climate change," Senator Wong said.

"A greater risk is being left behind in a world of emerging economic opportunities."

David Gibbs



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