|August 14, 2009|
|Strife between Australia’s Labor Party and the opposition coalition has shelved attempts by the government to control greenhouse gas emissions. |
Australia’s Senate has voted down a landmark climate-change bill championed by the prime minister, Kevin Rudd, and his Labor party. The August 13th vote could set the stage for early elections, given that a second rejection of the bill would give the government the ability to dissolve both houses of parliament. In that case, however, the legislation would still pass in something like its current form, as the fractious opposition coalition would probably lose still more seats in fresh elections.
Labor’s planned Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) would have reduced Australia’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 5% of 2000 levels by 2020, or 25% of 2000 levels if other major developed countries agreed to similar cuts. Australia is the biggest per-capita emitter in the developed world, largely because of the country’s heavy reliance on coal-generated power. Climate change is also a central political issue; Mr Rudd’s government, which ratified the Kyoto Protocol shortly after taking office, campaigned heavily on promises to reduce Australia’s contribution to global warming.
The defeat of the legislation did not come as a huge surprise. The opposition Liberal-National coalition had vowed in advance to vote against the bill in its current form. The opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, proposed nine changes to the bill in late July, most of which were aimed at softening the impact of the scheme on trade-exposed industries and the agricultural and mining sectors.
The government dismissed these proposals as well as a last-minute alternative plan Mr Turnbull and an independent senator proposed just before the vote, which promised greater cuts in carbon emissions at a lower cost to the economy. Meanwhile, Labor also failed to gain the support of senators from the Australian Greens party, which views the CPRS as too timid.
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