Nature Climate Change | Climate Feedback

Hard times for climate plans in Australia and Canada

After months of saying that recession wouldn’t stop climate policy plans in Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced yesterday that the country’s cap-and-trade program is in fact going to be delayed a year and will not roll out until July 2011.

As Roberta Kwok wrote in Nature last month, Rudd’s Labour party government had called for a 5% emissions cut from 2000 levels by 2020 – to be raised to 15% if an ambitious global climate deal is reached in Copenhagen – but the proposed legislation was under fire from both the right and left. The Financial Times notes that Greens in the Australian Senate had demanded a 40% cut with a global deal, while conservative opposition parties wanted the plan delayed to cushion the impact on businesses. Rudd met the Greens halfway, raising the conditional 15% target to 25%. Industry got extra soothing with a new tweak: fixed carbon prices for the first year (The Age has details).

Rudd, who had called any delay in cap-and-trade “reckless and irresponsible”, now says “I believe (this) is the most sensible, rational, balanced response to a fundamental change in economic circumstances.”

Halfway around the world, British Columbia may also be about to take a U-turn on a climate policy milestone. Nicola Jones reports in Nature today that the province has been uneasily bearing the burden of North America’s first carbon tax. The BC Liberal Party started the tax in July, but their challengers in an upcoming election on 12 May are against it. Jones writes:

The opposing British Columbia New Democratic Party (NDP) has vowed to “axe the tax”, arguing that it is ineffective and unfair on remote populations. Ironically, the NDP has traditionally been ‘greener’ than the Liberals; it has been accused by some, including Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, of taking an anti-carbon-tax stance solely to court votes in a close-running election.

At the national level, the Liberals lost seats in Canada’s federal election last year when they backed a ‘Green Shift’ plan that would have taxed polluters. The unpopularity of the BC carbon tax – which, Jones points out, boosted fuel costs when oil prices were at a record high – could put a similar crimp on the provincial party.

Anna Barnett

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