CANBERRA (Reuters) - An architect of Australia’s stalled climate-change policy has linked the nation’s recent natural disasters with global warming and called for a new political push to cut carbon emissions.
Ross Garnaut, releasing updated advice to the government, said extreme weather events like massive Cyclone Yasi, which hit the northeast coast on Thursday, and recent floods were just a taste of what would come if climate change went unchecked.
“The greater energy in the atmosphere and the seas can intensify extreme events and I‘m afraid that we’re feeling some of that today, and we’re feeling that at a time when global warming is in its early stages,” he said in a speech late on Thursday.
Australia accounts for 1.5 percent of global emissions but is one of the world’s top per-capita polluters because of its reliance on coal for around 80 percent of power generation.
Canberra has delayed plans to force polluters to pay for carbon-emission permits on an open market and has instead set up a committee to find the best way of putting a price on carbon.
Greens and independent MPs are involved in developing the new policy, with other options such as an interim carbon tax also being considered.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday reaffirmed a commitment to pricing carbon pollution, likening the move to key economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s and saying the move would lead to a new technological revolution in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper has said the government is moving toward the Greens idea of a hybrid carbon-trade plan, with an initial fixed price on carbon pollution until a full carbon market could be established.
The government’s previous carbon-trade plan proposed an initial set price of around A$1 a tonne, before moving to a market price, and emission cuts of at least 5 percent of year 2000 levels by 2020. The Greens want cuts of 25 to 40 percent.
In Europe, the world’s largest carbon market, prices have been trading around 14.50 euros ($19.70) per tonne.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has previously played down the benefits of a carbon tax, saying a carbon trade scheme would give more certainty on cuts to emissions. ($1 = 0.735 Euros)
Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Mark Bendeich