Clive Palmer tones down conditions for emissions trading scheme

Softened conditions for ETS launch: Clive Palmer. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Softened conditions for ETS launch: Clive Palmer. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Clive Palmer has softened the conditions under which his proposed emissions trading scheme would be launched, in an attempt to attract more political support for a new price on carbon.

The details of Mr Palmer's proposed trading scheme, which he first floated in an unlikely joint news conference with former US vice-president Al Gore in June, were circulated to the government, opposition and other senators on Thursday.

In a move that would make it easier for the conditions necessary for emissions trading to be met, Mr Palmer has dropped India from a list of countries that would have to take broad action on climate change before an Australian scheme would kick in.

He has also relaxed the conditions that must be met by the US, China, the European Union, Japan and South Korea for a scheme to be launched.

The Palmer United Party is hopeful Labor and the Greens will back the scheme in the Senate because the PUP proposal largely replicates the architecture of the carbon price passed by the Gillard government. But even if Labor and the Greens passed it in the Senate, it is unlikely the legislation would get through the House of Representatives, given the federal government's opposition to a price on carbon.

Neither Labor nor the Greens would comment on the latest PUP proposal on Thursday.

Mr Palmer, who announced this week plans to host a world climate change conference after November's G20 summit in Brisbane, said his intention was to relaunch the debate over carbon pricing after the federalgovernment repealed the carbon tax with his party's support.

"The carbon tax was an arbitrary tax that was five to six times the international price and Australians realised that," he said.

"What we want is something that is fair, reasonable and that, internationally, doesn't affect our industries and jobs."

Mr Palmer described the proposal, which is expected to be introduced in the next sitting of Parliament which begins on Monday, as "good policy".

The legislation would give the Climate Change Authority power to determine if the international conditions had been met to trigger an Australian scheme. But either house could still move to disallow the authority's ruling.

Despite earlier suggestions from Mr Palmer that big trading partners would be required to install their own national trading schemes, the draft legislation now says they could also have in place "equivalent schemes" that are similar or have a comparable effect as any Australian emissions trading scheme.

The proposal also sets out that the trading scheme must not "unfairly impact" Australian businesses relative to the businesses of the US, the EU, Japan, Korea and China.

Sources close to the Palmer camp acknowledged that with the government unlikely to back the scheme, the move was more a political "symbol that carbon pricing will come back".

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Coalition's policy was not to support an emissions trading scheme, and instead it would continue to work with the Senate on its alternative direct action climate change policy.

"What is being proposed is a re-work of the carbon tax bill which was just repealed," she said.

Mr Palmer has previously suggested he could make government support for his trading scheme proposal a condition of PUP support for direct action.

Mr Palmer's senators will hold talks over the weekend to discuss whether their support for direct action will depend on the federal government shifting its position on a floating carbon price.

Environment groups, including the Climate Institute and WWF, have welcomed the amendment, but argue that the conditions set out in Mr Palmer's proposal have largely already been met by the five trading partners.

WWF national climate change manager Kellie Caught said there was "support among Australians for an ETS" because polluter-pays schemes were seen as fair policy.

"Tony Abbott has shown his willingness to listen and compromise on policies over the last few months," Ms Caught said.

"We think this is an opportunity for the government to take a look at this."

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This story Clive Palmer tones down conditions for emissions trading scheme first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.