Yesterday Kevin Rudd confirmed that the Emission Trading Scheme had been shelved, prompting outrage from environment groups and opposition accusations he was ”running scared” from his centrepiece policy to tackle the problem he has described as ”the great moral challenge of our age”.
The Prime Minister said the government had decided ”to extend the implementation time for the introduction of a carbon pollution reduction scheme until the end of 2012”. It would then ”make its assessment on the implementation of a CPRS based on the commitments which are then entered into by the rest of the international community”.
Kevin Rudd’s retreat from climate change could save his government $4 billion in the Federal budget next month, helping the Government pay for a large share of the proposed health care reforms.
The ETS delay is the latest sign the government is clearing the decks before a possible early poll.
Together with new fuel efficiency regulations and existing funding for solar and clean coal projects (possibly the solar flagship program), the measures will become pre-election announcements to justify the claim the government is still committed to tackling climate change and able to meet the reduction targets it has pledged internationally.
Who would have thought the difference between ”the greatest moral challenge of our age” and ”absolute crap” could wind up being so small?
On one side there will be the Coalition’s ”soil magic” scheme based on implausible assumptions about the greenhouse-abatement capacities of the earth, and on the other the government’s ”energy efficiency” measures, which it implausibly hopes will provide sufficient cover for it to duck discussion of an emissions trading scheme altogether.
To understand just how far this debate has shifted, think back to poor old Brendan Nelson, who lost the Liberal leadership in 2008 for suggesting the wait-and-see approach that now seems to have bipartisan approval.
Kevin Rudd suggested yesterday he was just shifting the timing of the ”implementation” of his carbon pollution reduction scheme – like it was a minor administrative matter.
This decision significantly compromises the Prime Minister’s credibility on the issue and clouds in uncertainty business investment decisions, and Australia’s international negotiating position.