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Tony Abbott gets climate action after Palmer backflip

The Australian|Sid Maher|October 30, 2014
AustraliaEnergy Policy

Tony Abbott has won a deal to transform climate change policy after Clive Palmer agreed to ­support the government’s Direct Action plan, three months after voting to abolish the carbon tax.


Tony Abbott has won a deal to transform climate change policy after Clive Palmer agreed to ­support the government’s Direct Action plan, three months after voting to abolish the carbon tax.

The victory for the Prime Minister, which could be sealed with a vote in the Senate as early as today, comes despite widespread predictions from critics that the controversial policy would never win support.

After clinching the deal with Mr Palmer, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said last night: “This is a tremendous outcome for the government.

“One of our signature policies is being achieved, something towards which we have worked since 2010, something which has been taken to elections.”

The Coalition has also succeeded in repealing the mining tax, won changes to the Future of ­Financial Advice legislation, scrapped the debt ceiling and implemented the deficit levy. But it has so far failed to secure the numbers for some budget measures, such as a $7 GP co-payment and university deregulation.

Four months after ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

Tony Abbott has won a deal to transform climate change policy after Clive Palmer agreed to ­support the government’s Direct Action plan, three months after voting to abolish the carbon tax.

The victory for the Prime Minister, which could be sealed with a vote in the Senate as early as today, comes despite widespread predictions from critics that the controversial policy would never win support.

After clinching the deal with Mr Palmer, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said last night: “This is a tremendous outcome for the government.

“One of our signature policies is being achieved, something towards which we have worked since 2010, something which has been taken to elections.”

The Coalition has also succeeded in repealing the mining tax, won changes to the Future of ­Financial Advice legislation, scrapped the debt ceiling and implemented the deficit levy. But it has so far failed to secure the numbers for some budget measures, such as a $7 GP co-payment and university deregulation.

Four months after describing Direct Action as a “token gesture” and a waste of money, Mr Palmer announced he would support the government’s $2.55 billion emissions reduction fund, the centrepiece of the plan. He capitulated on his demand for the introduction of an emissions trading scheme that would be zero rated until major international competitors moved on climate change.

This was despite his June ­declaration beside former US vice-president Al Gore urging a zero-rated ETS to take effect when key international trading competitors also introduced emissions ­reduction schemes.

Mr Hunt explicitly ruled out an ETS or the government purchasing international carbon abatement units.

The government acceded to Mr Palmer’s request to retain the ­Climate Change Authority, but his demand for an ETS has been ­watered-down to an 18-month ­inquiry by the CCA to be headed by former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser.

“I’d like to think that what you’ve heard today is the beginnings of an emerging broader political consensus on climate change and the need to take effective ­action,” Mr Fraser said.

“Because that is what this country needs more than anything else, the development of a broad political consensus.”

Business welcomed the deal last night but environmentalists expressed concern that Australia would not be able to meet its 5 per cent emissions reduction goal or deepen emissions cuts post-2020.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott welcomed the proposed amendments to the emissions reduction fund, saying it would be more attractive to business.

“The proposal to extend the contract and crediting periods under the Emissions Reduction Fund has the potential to bring forward a larger number of emissions reduction projects, which will ­further assist in meeting Australia’s target,” Ms Westacott said.

The deal with the Palmer ­United Party will give the gov­ernment the numbers in the Senate to win passage of its Direct Action bill which is contained in amendments to the Carbon Farming Initiative Bill. It is also likely to win the support of independent senator Nick Xenophon after accepting four of five of his amendments to the scheme. Senator Xenophon will support the deal as long as the four amendments are backed by the government. Mr Palmer said he had won retention of the ­Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy ­Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. “And today we’ve kept hope alive on the ETS,’’ Mr Palmer said. “We think we’ve kept alive an ETS.’’

Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler said Mr Palmer had been “sold a pup’’ on the deal and had succeeded only in retaining a “photograph’’ of an emissions trading scheme.

“I don’t know what Jedi mind trick Greg Hunt played on Clive Palmer,’’ Mr Butler said.

Greens leader Christine Milne labelled Mr Palmer’s deal an “embarrassing joke’’ after he stood with Mr Gore and backed an ETS.

Mr Hunt recommitted the government to its 5 per cent emissions-reduction target by 2020 and declared the Emissions Reduction Fund was capable of achieving the reductions. The ERF will be conducted as a “reverse auction’’, under which projects bid and the lowest cost abatement, on a per tonne of carbon emissions basis, receives funding.

Mr Hunt said Mr Palmer’s agreement had protected existing projects already operating under the existing CFI framework. He said it would provide opportunities for farms and small businesses to reduce emissions “for Australians to participate in energy efficiency on a grand scale’’. Mr Hunt said the government’s plan could reduce emissions “without an electricity tax or a gas tax’’.

Under the deal with Mr Palmer, the government accepted his push to increase the period for indigenous savanna-burning projects from seven to 25 years. Mr Palmer also pushed for and won an expansion of the role of the CFI expert committee in providing advice to the government before ERF funds can be released.

The expert committee will also have the power to suspend funding if it is concerned about a project and the public will have the right to request a review of the methodology of emissions reduction projects.

Climate experts expressed ­immediate doubts Direct Action could succeed in reaching the 5 per cent reduction target. RepuTex executive director energy and emissions markets Hugh Grossman said the ERF would not achieve the necessary level of abatement, leaving Australia short of its target.

“On its own, we project that the ERF will fall short of Australia’s commitment to reduce emissions by 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020, with the fund forecast to purchase 20-30 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas abatement challenge, or between 80 and 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions abatement.

“This is equivalent to a shortfall of over 300 million tonnes for Australia to meet its 5 per cent emissions reduction target of 421 million tonnes by 2020.’’

The Climate Institute welcomed the preservation of the independent Climate Change Authority. “The review it will conduct into the carbon reduction policies of major trading partners is potentially a valuable contribution to the development of Australia’s emission reduction targets and policies,” its chief executive John Connor said. “However, we need to see more details on what the review will cover and how the government will respond to it.”


Source:http://www.theaustralian.com.…

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