The Australian Government announced a tax of 17.3 euros per ton of carbon dioxide with the goal of combating climate change. “As a nation, we need to put a price on CO2 and create a renewable energy future,” said Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announcing the tax, which already has the necessary support to be approved shortly in Parliament.
The measure, which will take effect from July 1 next year, will affect some 500 large polluting enterprises, mainly in the electricity sector, mining and energy. The tax will increase annually by 2.5% in real terms until 2015, when it will pass a emissions trading scheme similar to the European Union (EU) where the international market set prices.
The measure, Australia aims to cut 159 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2020, which means to cut emissions by 5% compared with 2000 levels. Gillard, who in recent months has become the most unpopular governor in the country in nearly three decades, explained that these amounts are equivalent to one out of circulation “45 million cars.”
This plan, with only 30% of popular support, is considered one of the most ambitious after the system created in the EU in 2005 to regulate transactions of allowances among the most polluting sectors. Australia contributes 1.5% of the global emission of greenhouse gases, unless the U.S., China, Russia, India and Japan, but is one of the world’s most polluting nations in per capita terms.
The leader of the opposition, the conservative Tony Abbott, said the Australian Government’s plan will not help to mitigate climate change, which is predicted that China and India will increase its emissions by 500 and 350%, respectively. Abbott demanded Australia to tackle climate change “an appropriate international context”, insisting that the new tax will have a negative impact on jobs and in the pockets of Australians.
The Treasurer of Australia, Wayne Swan, who joined the press conference Gillard, admitted that the reform will cost about 4,300 million local dollars (U.S. $ 4.619 million or 3.243 million euros) over the next four years, mainly in spending related to its implementation.
Australia, which relies almost 80% of coal to generate electricity, plans to close by 2020 most coal power plants, promote investment in developing clean energy technologies and the development of less harmful to the environment.
To mitigate the effects of its controversial plan, Canberra will dedicate the next three years some 9,200 million local dollars (9.884 million or $ 6.938 million euros) to support the industry affected by the tax, primarily in the steel sector, the aluminum and zinc, as well as bins. The plan includes help for the steel industry of about 300 million of local dollars (322 U.S. dollars or 226 million euros) and some 1,300 local billion (U.S. $ 1,396 million or 980 million euros) for the coal .
From 2013, the Government will establish a fund of 10,000 million of local dollars (U.S. $10.744 million or 7.542 million euros) to promote the next five years, investments in renewable and clean energy.
The authorities also granted some 15,000 local billion (U.S. $16.116 million or 11.313 million euros) in tax cuts and additional social support about 4 million households indirectly affected by the measure. The tax excludes the agricultural sector and fuel for personal use or small businesses but affect the diesel used by heavy goods vehicles from 2014.