Australian opposition confident of carbon deal

CANBERRA Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:03pm EST

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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's opposition expressed confidence on Tuesday that it would reach a deal with the government to pass laws for a domestic carbon trade scheme, with a final government offer on negotiations due next week.

The opposition's climate change negotiator, Ian Macfarlane, told Australian media he was optimistic he would secure a deal despite divisions within his own party on the issue.

"I remain confident that we'll get an outcome that I can take to the party room, and that the party room can consider," Australian Associated Press quoted Macfarlane as telling reporters.

"On that basis, I'd be optimistic that the party room would support it," he said, adding a final decision would be made by opposition lawmakers next Monday or Tuesday.

Australia's carbon debate is being closely watched overseas, particularly in the United States where lawmakers are debating their own proposals, ahead of the global Copenhagen summit on global warming in December.

The government wants carbon trading to start in July 2011. The scheme will cover 75 percent of Australian emissions from 1,000 companies and be the second domestic trading platform outside of Europe.

However, the package of 11 carbon trade bills was defeated by parliament's upper house Senate in August, and the government is now negotiating with the opposition over amendments to help secure enough votes in the Senate.

The government has bowed to a key opposition demand to permanently exclude agriculture, which accounts for around 16 percent of Australian emissions, from the scheme, but the opposition also wants more concessions for coal miners. The package of carbon trade bills will be introduced into the Senate on Tuesday.

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