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The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Rudd's C02 cop-out

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Credit: iStockphoto

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The Rudd Government has put out its emissions trading scheme White Paper and the document is likely to be canned from all sides.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has told the ABC that the Government is just trying to get the balance right. Maybe, but she can expect plenty of criticism over the next few weeks.

The White paper commits Australia to a 5% reduction in carbon emissions on 2000 levels by 2020.

It flags a 15% reduction "in the context of global agreement where all major economies commit to substantially restrain emissions and all developed countries take on comparable reductions to that of Australia".

Translated, that means there has to be some sort of international agreement for Australia to go for the higher target.

One of the most important points here is that it's very different from Ross Garnaut's recommendation that a 25 per cent cut in emissions in the event of an international agreement was in the national interest.

The White Paper's central implication is that the Government's figure is more realistic. "Australia's commitment of a 5-15 per cent reduction by 2020 is a serious and credible commitment to the global action required and is realistically attainable in the current circumstances.

In the international context, the Australian Government's medium term target range represents a significant contribution to the global effort.

Australia's particular national circumstances — including its strong population growth, large share of energy and emissions-intensive industries, and heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy —mean that Australia faces a relatively greater structural adjustment task to move towards a low-emission future than many other developed countries."

As Crikey correspondent Bernard Keane points out, the White Paper makes significant concessions to the country's biggest polluters and broadens the compensation arrangements to industries that had previously missed out.

Environmental groups, including the Greens, say the reduced emissions target is a "global embarrassment". They say the Government is pandering to big business.

As Greens leader Bob Brown wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend, a target of 5-15% means the Government is "running up the white flag on climate change".

So what's your take on the White Paper? Is it actually getting the balance right? Or has the Government softened its stance on climate change? What more can be done?