Christine Milne calls Labor’s move to an ETS cowardly

15 July 2013 — Greens Senator Christine Milne has labelled the Labor government’s plan to move early to an emissions trading scheme as “cowardly”, though other green groups say the move could work with stronger emissions reduction targets.

“The decision to scrap the fixed carbon price is cowardly,” Ms Milne said. “If you believed that climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time, and it is, you would not now be moving to have the big polluters pay less. That is what Kevin Rudd is doing.”

“On climate change Tony Abbott is a denier,” she also said.

Mr Abbott was today reported as saying an emissions trading scheme was ‘‘a market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one”.

The shift to an ETS would see the current fixed price of $24.15 per tonne of CO2 drop to a floating price in line with the European market, which could see prices as low as $5.90 a tonne.

Mr Rudd told reporters in Cairns that the government was moving to an ETS because “a floating price takes cost-of-living pressures off Australian families and still protects the environment and acts on climate change”.

Recent figures showed that the inflationary effect of the carbon price had been between 0.4 and 0.7 per cent in the first year.

Ms Milne said that the carbon price had driven electricity production away from coal to renewables, and that the transition to an ETS now would jeopardise this.

“Making coal fired power cheaper will slow down the transition to clean energy in the Australian economy,” she said. “That is bad for jobs and competitiveness – but it will please the coal generators.

“There is no good policy reason to bring forward flexible pricing. If the European price was $50 a tonne, would Kevin Rudd be moving to bring it forward? The answer is clearly no. He wants to send a signal to the big polluters that he wants to slow down the transition.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s climate change program manager Tony Mohr said that while moving early to an emissions trading scheme meant the price on pollution would be lower for a year, Australia’s policy could still be effective if a strong target was set and the government committed to  keeping other clean energy programs like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Biodiversity Fund.

“For Australia to be taking realistic action to combat climate change, our target to cut pollution should be 25 per cent by 2020,” he said.