News | 11th Aug, 2011

No carbon cut targets: Baillieu

Thursday, 11 August 2011
Reid Sexton, The Age

The Baillieu government has backed further away from its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent this decade, just a day after calling on Canberra to dump the carbon dioxide emissions tax.

The move has been slammed by the opposition and Environment Victoria, which said it showed the government had misled the public.

The shift of stance came as Jac Nasser, the chairman of the nations's biggest company, BHP Billiton, said Australia should slow its planned carbon tax introduction, warning there was ''huge downside'' from the move and not much ''upside''.

''We agree with the direction, we also agree with the science,'' Mr Nasser said at a business luncheon.

''My own view is that … it is quite a difficult time to be doing this, when other countries aren't. I'd slow it down … There is some upside, but there is huge downside.''

The European Union has had a carbon trading scheme since 2005 and other countries have legislated carbon cuts.

Victoria's carbon reduction target, which aims to cut emissions to 20 per cent lower than 2000 levels by 2020, was included in the Climate Change Act that passed with bipartisan support last year in the lead-up to the state election.

The government, which was warned by the Australian Industry Group in March that the target could disadvantage Victorian companies, has for months labelled it as ''aspirational'' despite it being Victorian law.

But asked yesterday to clarify his government's stance on the target, Premier Ted Baillieu distanced himself further from it by labelling it as old Labor government policy.

''[It's] a legislative target set by the previous government and as we've said, that is an aspirational target,'' he said.

''As we have consistently said if there is to be a systematic approach to this then that will be taken by the Commonwealth.

''We happen to disagree with the [carbon tax] model that's been rolled out by the current government.''

Environment Victoria chief Kelly O'Shanassy said the government's reluctance to embrace carbon reduction initiatives would cost the state clean energy jobs. She said Mr Baillieu's comments were the latest evidence that the government had made commitments on climate change in opposition that it was failing to deliver.

''It's misleading to support the … 20 per cent target and a price on carbon price pollution then when once elected move away from all those issues,'' she said. ''It's not written as an aspirational target in legislation.

''It's written as a target and one would think if you put it into legislation then you aim to actually meet it.''

Shadow climate change spokeswoman Lisa Neville said: ''When laws are passed by Parliament I'm sure Victorians would expect the government of the day to abide by the laws of the day … just like they're obligated to follow and abide by laws of the day,'' she said.