THE Federal Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund that replaces the Carbon Tax has passed Senate, but under conditions set by the Palmer United Party that an emissions trading scheme – a potential Carbon Tax mark II – remains on the table and the Climate Change Authority is retained.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the $2.55 billion ERF will “help Australian businesses and communities enjoy the benefits of a cleaner environment and help Australia to meet its emissions reduction target of five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020”.
Rather than penalising polluters as the Carbon Tax did, Minister Hunt said the ERF provides incentives encouraging businesses to “come forward with emissions reductions opportunities that they’ve identified across the Australian economy”.
“Competitive auctions will be held and the Government will enter into contracts to buy emissions reductions from successful bidders at lowest cost,” he said, promising that only businesses that deliver emissions reductions will receive payment.
Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler said claimed safeguards to prevent pollution reductions caused by the ERF from being offset by increases elsewhere in the economy “have been exposed as a mirage”.
“What we end up with is a situation where Tony Abbott will hand billions of taxpayer dollars to some polluters while others will be free to increase their pollution levels with impunity,” he said.
Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer described his proposed emissions trading scheme as “not the Liberal way or the Labor way but the right way”.
The proposed scheme will be based on an 18-month review by the retained Climate Change Authority of overseas environmental initiatives and ETS programs and only become effective once Australia’s main trading partners establish their own.
While Mr Palmer congratulated his party of “achieving what the Greens were unable to” by saving the Climate Change Authotity and progressing an ETS, Mr Butler pointed to the fact that Labor had an ETS and that Mr Palmer had “voted with Tony Abbot to kill it”.
“Labor respects the work of the Climate Change Authority, but we don’t need another report to describe what’s happening in the rest of the world,” he said.
VASA and other members of the air conditioning and refrigeration industry can only hope that Mr Palmer’s report and proposed ETS learns from the mistakes of the Carbon Tax and minimises the refrigerant market distortion that led to poor working practices and other problems that will take years to clean up.