Thursday, August 13, 2009

Climate change: the wheels fall off in Australia

Last year, the Australian government announced plans for their own emissions trading scheme. The plans were timid, the targets were soft, there were copious free credits to polluters, and permit prices were capped to further protect them from paying the full costs of their pollution - in short, it was a cop-out. But even that seems to be too much - after being delayed for a year, the scheme has just been voted down in the Senate. The Greens opposed the bill because it does too little, the opposition because it does too much, and Family First because they do not believe in climate change (but they believe in the invisible sky fairy - go figure). And given the numbers, any compromise is going to shift it even further towards doing too little.

The government can reintroduce the bill in three months time. If it fails a second time, there will be a double dissolution and early elections. The government is less afraid of this than the opposition, and so sometime around the end of the year we will see a game of high-stakes political chicken, with Australia's climate change policy as the prize.