Greens call for emissions trading rethink

The Australian Greens' March 21-22 national council meeting in Perth discussed the party's climate change policy. The council called on the Rudd government to adopt stronger emissions reduction targets.

"Nobody seriously believes that a 5% target, which is the only certainty the Rudd Government is offering, is defensible", said Australian Greens deputy leader, Christine Milne.

"Five percent sends a signal to the rest of the world that the Australian government continues to act in bad faith on climate change.

"Five percent sends a signal to Australian business that there is no need to change.

"The Greens challenge the government to explain how the compensation measures it is offering to the big polluters are based on any kind of sound economic theory or environmental policy. It is clear that the compensation is not about keeping jobs onshore, but about maintaining profitability for polluters in a changing world", she said.

The Greens resolution called on the Rudd government to "rethink its plans to allocate compensation on the basis of lobbying power rather than sound economic theory and environmental policy; and adopt a serious emissions reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 on the way to carbon neutrality".

It also endorsed the work of the Greens senators in highlighting the flaws of the emissions trading scheme and promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, public transport and protecting forest carbon stores — and continuing to seek to engage the government in debate on climate change action.

It fell short, however, of outright rejection of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), and leaves open the possibility of the Greens senators agreeing to some amended version of the legislation.

The scheme is so fundamentally flawed, however, that it should be rejected completely, not merely amended.

With a price cap on carbon, free permits for the biggest polluters, and a $3.9 billion package for the coal industry, it fails give incentives for large emissions cuts.

Other major problems with the CPRS include the compensation payable to the big polluters if the emissions cap is ever tightened, unlimited international offsets (delaying the domestic shift to a carbon-free economy), and the "emissions floor" effect making it impossible for voluntary action by individuals or organisations to yield emissions reductions greater than the national 5% target.

The government's scheme is designed to protect the big polluters, not to return us to a safe climate. The CPRS can't be tweaked, but must be scrapped.

[Kamala Emanuel is a member of the .]