November 27, 2009 / 5:28 AM / 9 years ago

Australian Senate delays carbon trade vote

(Updates with Senate delay)

CANBERRA, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Australia’s parliament delayed a final vote on the government’s sweeping carbon trade plan on Friday, missing a key deadline and throwing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s new climate change policy into doubt.

Rudd wanted the carbon scheme, aimed at cutting emissions by between 5 and 25 percent, passed by Friday and ahead of December’s global climate talks in Copenhagen.

But the upper house Senate failed to take a vote by the close of business on Friday, and will now return on Monday to continue debate on the package of 11 bills.

If the proposed laws on carbon trade are defeated in parliament’s upper house Senate for a second time this year, Rudd would have the option of calling a snap election in early 2010.

"We have been trying all year to get climate change legislation passed by this parliament. And we have been denied that legislation by the climate change deniers," government Senate leader Chris Evans told parliament.

"We intend to pursue this bill. The Labor party will be back on Monday," he said.

The government needs seven opposition votes to pass the plan in the Senate but a growing number of opposition lawmakers want to abandon an agreement with the government on the measure,

Many conservative politicians oppose carbon trading because they do not believe human activity is responsible for global warming and have rebelled against the deal with the government.

The United States, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, is eyeing developments in Australia as its lawmakers make slow progress on a climate bill in the U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday, Australia’s opposition reached an agreement with the government to pass the laws after winning major concessions, including more compensation for big emitters, coal mines and electricity generators.

But opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has since faced an open revolt, with up to half of his party opposed to the carbon trade plan.

Turnbull will face a challenge to his leadership early on Monday. If he loses, the opposition is likely to abandon its agreement with the government and vote down the laws.

Opinion polls show Rudd would easily win an election with an increased majority, and Turnbull on Friday warned his party to support the laws or face a crushing electoral defeat.

"The vast majority of Australians want to see action on climate change," Turnbull told Australian radio.

"If this legislation is knocked back, Kevin Rudd will have no choice but to go to a double dissolution election. This is a fundamental plank in his platform."

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Michael Perry and Sanjeev Miglani)

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