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CPRS defeated

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Policy

Senate

The CPRS was defeated today in the Senate [above].

Credit: Wikimedia

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The Government has been defeated in a second attempt to pass its emissions trading scheme in the Senate today, provoking strong reactions from climate change activists and giving Labor a trigger for a double dissolution election.

After more than 30 hours of debate over the past two weeks, two Liberal frontbenchers crossed the floor to vote with the Government on the issue, defying new Liberal leader Tony Abbott.

But it was not enough to save the legislation from the combined votes of Liberals, Nationals, Greens, Family First and independent senators, who all voted to defeat the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme for varying reasons.

The Government lost with 33 votes in favour of the legislation to 41 votes against.

International law expert Donald Rothwell, from the Australian National University in Canberra, said the defeat of the CPRS legislation might prove to be a blessing in disguise.

"The defeat of the CPRS may, in fact, provide Australia with greater flexibility in its negotiating position [at the Copenhagen Conference], as it is now no longer wedded to having to support a scheme that would only have been recently adopted by the Australian Parliament," he said in a statement today.

Environment group Friends of the Earth Australia has also welcomed the Senate's decision.

"The government's carbon trading plan was so compromised by the big polluters it would have locked in a high polluting economy on climate change," said national climate justice coordinator Damien Lawson.

"The Coalition's motivation for blocking the legislation is wrong but the result is an opportunity for the government to implement real action to cut carbon pollution."

Some green groups, however, expressed disappointment over the defeat of the CPRS legislation, including the Australian Conservation Foundation.

"Emissions trading is not the only way to respond to climate change, but putting a cap on emissions and a price on carbon would drive significant cuts to greenhouse pollution across our economy," said ACF executive director Don Henry in a statement.

"The 20 per cent renewable energy target is the strongest piece of climate legislation we have. Without an emissions trading scheme Australia would need 12 climate laws of this scale to achieve emissions cuts of at least 25 per cent by 2020"

WWF-Australia is calling for a double dissolution election as early as possible to let the people of Australia decide on the issue.

"Time is running out. We can no longer allow party sceptics and the vested interests of polluters to delay action on climate change," said WWF-Australia's head of Sustainability and Development, Paul Toni, in a statement today.

"The great majority of Australians recognise climate change is real and that we must act. It is time for politicians to hear the voice of the public in an election that will shape our future."

The Government has announced it plans to make a third attempt at winning Senate approval for the scheme when Parliament resumes sitting in February next year.