Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Climate change: cutting it fine

Since the scrapping of the carbon tax eighteen months ago, the government has been working on a new climate change policy. So when will it be ready? The select committee report [PDF] on the 2007/08 Appropriations for Vote: Agriculture and Forestry has some disturbing news. When discussing the results of the consultation process on the government's Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change discussion paper, it noted:

A report containing technical analysis and recommendations will be provided to the Minister in the next month, and the Government will make final policy decisions in October. Any necessary legislation should be introduced by the end of the year.

(Emphasis added).

This is cutting it a bit fine. The House rises on 11 December, so even if a bill is introduced at the beginning of October, it will be before Parliament for barely two months. That's simply not enough time for a full select committee process - meaning that the legislation will not be subject to proper democratic scrutiny. Worse, the policies likely to emerge from the process - a deforestation permit trading system and (recycled) tax on nitrogen fertiliser - are complex and will require some lead-in time, both for the industry to adapt and for the necessary administrative structures to be established. Which means that we are unlikely to see policy actually implemented until June 2008 at the earliest - a full six months into the Kyoto First Commitment Period. For a government which claims to be serious about acting on climate change, this is not a good look.

I just hope they're quicker off the mark on energy policy and emissions trading.