29 Apr 2010 11:04:05
Has Australia missed its chance to showcase the benefits of a low carbon economy?
Earlier this month, the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) was introduced in the UK. All larger organisations and companies are required to take part and purchase allowances from the government for each tonne of CO2 they emit.
Australia's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), which is similar to the CRC, was one of the country's major initiatives in its fight to cut carbon emissions by 2020. The scheme would have required businesses to purchase permits in order to emit the gas into the atmosphere.
However, it has been announced this week that prime minister Kevin Rudd has taken the decision to shelve the CPRS until 2013 at the earliest.
Initially plans were to put the programme into action by July 2011, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions by 25 per cent by 2020. This would have also provided a serious boost to Australia's low carbon economy.
The reasons behind the delay were said to be twofold.
According to the government, not enough progress was being made on a new pact on climate change ahead of the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.
In Mr Rudd's own words this, "will provide the Australian government at the time with a better position to assess the level of global action on climate change."
However, there was also opposition to the carbon trading scheme from the Upper Senate of the Australian government, which is not controlled by Mr Rudd's ruling Australian Labor Party.
Before Mr Rudd took the decision to delay, the plans for the CPRS in Australia were rejected twice. The second time was just before the Copenhagen Summit in late 2009 after a supporter in an opposition party backtracked on his support.
Under the CPRS a cap would be placed on the emissions released by businesses in Australia which would be lowered over time. Businesses would be able to trade emissions permits between themselves, providing they never exceed the government's cap, and potentially save vast sums of money on their energy bills.
Questions are now being asked as to whether the move is further confirmation that the lack of agreement which came out of Copenhagen will hinder the efforts of those determined to combat climate change.
And if this is the case, has the country missed out on a golden opportunity to show climate change skeptics and the international community the growing financial benefits of a low carbon economy?