News | 12th Nov, 2012

Obama keen to tackle climate

12 November 2012
Peter Hannam, The Age

The Australian government has wasted little time to sound out the newly re-elected Barack Obama over his administration's climate change policies and the potential to work more closely together.

An issue excluded from the US presidential debates, the argument over global warming was revived when superstorm Sandy slammed into north-eastern US states a week before polling day, leaving a damage bill some expect to exceed $US50 billion ($A48 billion).

Mr Obama signalled his intention to tackle climate change in his second term during his acceptance speech in Chicago, where he underlined the issue as among his top priorities.

''We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt; that isn't weakened by inequality; that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,'' he said.

Australia's Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, told the Carbon Expo conference in Melbourne on Friday that he was ''very pleased'' with Mr Obama's victory, and said he held already spoken on the issue with his US counterpart since the elections.

''I think the White House will be looking, over the course of the next four years, to be in a position to try to advance action on climate change in the US,'' he said.

Mr Combet, through a spokesman, declined to expand on the details of the discussions.

The minister has also been discussing the prospects of linking Australia's planned market for greenhouse gas emissions with California. The biggest US state will auction its first pollution permits this week with the emissions trading scheme (ETS) to start on January 1.

Mr Combet said support for a price on carbon would grow here and in the US as people saw that economies continued to grow despite the impost.

By next year, more than 50 national or sub-national regions are expected to have an emissions trading scheme, covering a combined 1.1 billion people. Based on announced policies, by 2020 about 3 billion people would be living in regions where polluters paid for their emissions, he said.

Next year, Guangdong province, which abuts Hong Kong and is itself Australia's sixth-largest trading partner, will begin a trial ETS.

China plans to develop a national trading scheme by 2015, a step Mr Combet said would make it even harder for a Coalition government in Canberra to proceed with its plans to scrap a carbon price.

Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said a Coalition government would issue a white paper within 30 days of winning government on its preferred Direct Action plan on cutting emissions.

After two rounds of consultations on the legislation to dismantle the carbon tax and planned ETS by 2015, the legislation would go to Parliament by the 150th day in office, he said.


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