Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Farmers cut from carbon plan - Concession removes major sticking point

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 15/11/2009 Page: 3

THE RUDD Government has upped the pressure on the Opposition over the emissions trading scheme by agreeing to exclude agriculture from the legislation to be debated this week. As negotiations wind down to the crucial vote, the Government will try to force the hand of the Opposition by agreeing to exclude farmers, growers and land owners from its carbon pollution reduction scheme - a key sticking point thus far of the Opposition's resistance to the Bill.

Federal politicians return to the national capital tomorrow for the final sitting weeks of the year with Government determined to push through its emission trading legislation before the Copenhagen conference next month. The Government had previously said the agricultural industry would be exempt from any scheme until at least 2015 but a senior Labor source said this would be extended indefinitely.

"Over the next fortnight, the Government is determined to work with the Liberal Party to achieve a negotiated agreement to establish a carbon pollution reduction scheme," the source said. "As a sign of good faith, the Government will agree to exclude agricultural emissions from coverage under the CPRS indefinitely. In light of our decision to exclude agricultural emissions indefinitely, the Government is considering ways in which the agricultural sector can contribute to the transition to a low-pollution economy. "This will include monitoring world best practice in reducing emissions in the agricultural sector."

The Opposition has been seeking amendments to the Bill that would see the permanent exclusion of agriculture on the emissions side but its inclusion for the purpose of claiming credits for good farming practices, tree planting and other green" projects. The source said the Government was considering how best to implement the amendments. "In negotiating with the Opposition, the Government will consider a range of ways in which the sector can reduce its emissions over the medium to long term, including by being able to generate offsetting credits."

Negotiations between Climate Change Minister Penny Wong - who has made her intentions of ramming the legislation through the Senate in the next two weeks consistently clear - and Opposition climate change spokesman Ian MacFarlane have been proceeding smoothly with Mr Macfarlane indicating he would have the party room numbers for the Opposition to support the Bill. He will take his amendments to a shadow cabinet meeting on November 23, before presenting the final proposal to the joint-party room.

A number of dissenters remain in the Coalition ranks, however, with backbenchers Julian McGauran, Dennis Jensen and Wilson Tuckey, all publicly rejecting an emissions trading scheme. They are expected to cross the floor in the vote. But Mr Turnbull has said if the Government were to accept a significant package of amendments, he would recommend the party room pass the Bill.