Late last week, Prime Minister Rudd, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Penny Wong, the Minister for Climate Change and Water, announced the release of draft regulations of Australia’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). This release marks the first of several disclosures as Australia’s emissions trading scheme continues to take shape. According to a press release
from the Australian Labor Party, these drafts outline the EITE assistance program framework, application procedures, reporting requirements, as well as calculation plans for carbon emissions and industry compensation.
The regulations outline some of the highly emission-intensive sectors that will receive close to 94.5 percent of their expected emission permits for free under this scheme. These sectors include the production of carbon black, methanol, silicon, and bulk flat glass, as well as zinc smelting and the manufacturing of newsprint. Sectors that are considered moderately emission-intensive sectors will receive up to 66 percent of their allowances for free. This includes the production of glass containers and the white titanium dioxide pigment.
These draft regulations are stirring up considerable debate amongst the Opposition who fear jobs lost to countries without carbon regulations (such as India and China) and the Greens who feel that the regulations are not ambitious
enough to tackle the growing problem of climate change. “We are determined that Australia plays its fair share internationally,” said Christine Milne, Senator and Australian Greens’ climate change spokeswoman.
Presently, the legislation discusses emissions targets of 16-24 percent. This is far from the 25-45 percent needed for developed countries. Following the UN meeting in Bonn, Senator Milne noted that the main roadblock to reaching an international agreement for climate change this December in Copenhagen was the lack of ambition shown by developed countries.
In addition, the Greens express frustration with the Rudd Government’s plan to link the passage of the emissions reduction scheme with renewable energy measures. According to Senator Milne, “The draft regulations confirm that the carbon pollution reduction scheme will be a multi-million dollar wealth transfer from the people to the big polluters, and that stands in the way of protecting the climate.”
The draft regulations have been released earlier than usual, allowing for public comment prior to the passage of the legislation. While the Rudd Government claims that this unusual move was to allow parliament to gather as much information as possible, it has been speculated that this is a maneuver to have the legislation passed quickly. Despite this, the Opposition plans to filibuster all week to avoid the scheme from being put to a vote until later in the year. The Greens claim that they plan to vote the legislation down but that they do not support the vote’s delay. Either way, if the vote is defeated or deferred, it will signify a refusal by the Senate to pass the legislation and create difficulties for the Rudd government and its emissions trading legislation.