Monday, 30 November 2009

Howard goes silent on the ETS - Former PM A Climate Change Believer

Friday 27/11/2009 Page: 5

JOHN Howard refused yesterday to weigh into the debate over whether the Coalition should support the Rudd government's emission trading bills, as opposition frontbenchers dramatically abandoned their leader over his handling of the issue.

The former prime minister's refusal to comment on the deal struck with Kevin Rudd comes about two weeks after he said Labor's ETS was similar to the scheme the Coalition took to the last election. "What Mr Rudd is proposing is not all that different from what I took to the last election," Mr Howard told News Limited newspapers on November 8.

Yesterday, however, Mr Howard declined to comment on the question of whether the Coalition should support the scheme, which has triggered extraordinary Liberal Party ructions. "Since leaving parliament, I have remained silent on day-today policy issues confronting the opposition. I do not intend to alter that approach in relation to the ETS," Mr Howard said.

After refusing for many years to sign the Kyoto Protocol or implement an ETS in Australia, Mr Howard changed his mind before the last election, after a report from his hand-picked emissions trading taskforce led by the head of his department, Peter Shergold. In June 2007, he told the Liberal Party federal council in Sydney the nation needed to respond to man-made climate change.

"I announce specifically that Australia will move towards a domestic emissions trading system, that's a cap-and-trade system beginning no later than 2012," he said. Mr Howard said emissions reduction targets would be set in 2008, after detailed economic modelling of the impact of the scheme on the economy and families.

"The scheme will be national in scope and as comprehensive as practicable, designed to take account of global developments and to preserve the competitiveness of our trade-exposed emissions-intensive industries," he said at the time. The following month, unveiling further details of his ETS policy, Mr Howard declared he had become convinced that human activity was causing the planet to warm.

"over time the scientific evidence that the climate is warming has become quite compelling and the link between emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity and higher temperatures is also convincing," he said.

In contrast to the current strong objections of Liberal MPs to implementing an ETS before Copenhagen, Mr Howard said: "Being among the first movers on carbon trading in this region will bring new opportunities and we intend to grasp them."