Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Climate change: What now for the CPRS?

This morning, the Australian Liberal party dumped Malcolm Turnbull and installed climate change denier Tony Abbott as leader. The fight was precipitated by disputes over the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the Australian version of the ETS. So what does it mean for climate policy in Australia?

In the short term, nothing good. Abbott's first act as leader was to hold a secret ballot on climate change policy, which saw the party agree to bury the CPRS in Senate committee. Which means that the bill almost certainly won't pass in time for Copenhagen. This may also be sufficient to meet the test of the Senate "not passing" a bill required for a double dissolution - though as they can't really run an election over the holidays, that's pretty academic. If the bill is delayed, the government will wait and see (and poll) before deciding whether it wants to fight an immediate election on climate change (as opposed to one later in the year on the same subject).

The sticking point for Abbott is that while he has won the leadership, he has not unified his party, and there is a real chance that the required number of Liberal Senators will cross the floor to vote for the CPRS. The Senate is still debating the bill (and will likely be doing so all week), and we'll get some indication of whether this will happen as the government's amendments are voted on. But if it does, Abbott's leadership may start out as an utter farce.