Australian Greens Seek ‘Fast, Furious’ Climate Steps

Greens Seek 'Fast, Furious' Movement on Climate With Gillard
Christine Milne, deputy leader of Australia's Greens party, speaks at the EcoGen 2010 conference in Sydney. Photographer: Sergio Dionisio/Bloomberg

The Australian Greens plan “fast and furious” action to establish a climate change committee and impose a price on carbon emissions under a government led by the Labor Party’s Julia Gillard.

“This is the best political opportunity collectively we’ve ever had,” Christine Milne, deputy leader of the Greens Party, said in Sydney today before Gillard won the support needed to form a government. With Labor retaining power, “this committee will be on track fast and furious,” Milne said.

Two independent lawmakers, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, backed Gillard’s minority government after the closest election in 70 years left neither of the main parties with a majority. Gillard, 48, gained support last week from the Greens and agreed in exchange to establish a climate change committee made up of lawmakers and scientists with the aim of setting a penalty for carbon emissions.

The forum’s goal is to determine the best way to introduce a carbon price, not to “decide whether climate change is real,” Milne said. Australia will be able to implement a carbon price with Gillard as prime minister, Milne said. “I would like that as soon as possible.”

Lawmakers plan to decide by the end of this month on how many members the climate committee will have and how it will work, she said. “We’ve had the debate about whether we need a carbon price and in my view there is a consensus by anyone who understands it,” she said. “What we haven’t had a proper debate about is how best to deliver it.”

‘Completely Inappropriate’

The Labor-Green proposal of a climate change committee composed only of people who back a carbon price is “completely inappropriate,” Australian opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt told reporters earlier today at the conference.

“I don’t believe parliament has ever, or should ever, have a committee where there is a belief test as a prerequisite,” he said. “Parliament should be a place for free thought.”

Both Gillard’s Labor Party and Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition targeted a 5 percent cut in emissions by 2020. While the Labor Party delayed plans to introduce an emissions trading system until after 2012, Abbott opposed a carbon price. Neither party won the 76 seats in the Aug. 21 election needed to form a government.

Abbott advocated a fund to encourage businesses and farmers to curb carbon emissions and a 15,000-strong “green army” to repair environmental damage.

‘Contested Ground’

Hunt today reiterated support for the A$2.55 billion ($2.3 billion) emissions reduction fund, saying it would provide certainty compared with the lack of clarity of when emissions trading would begin.

While there is “common ground” surrounding Australia’s target of generating 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, there will continue to be “contested ground” over how to tackle climate issues, Hunt said.

Windsor, who has a farm in his northern New South Wales electorate of New England, said today there are “enormous opportunities” for rural Australia to benefit from developing renewable energy sources.

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