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It is a historic day for clean energy today, as a carbon price passes through the Senate.
“Scientists have warned about climate change for decades," says Don Henry, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation. “This important first step in the process of tackling climate change is a credit to all those who have said ‘yes’ to a clean energy future."
The legislation will be brought into effect from 1 July 2012, affecting around 400 of the biggest carbon polluters, particularly in the energy, mining and transport sectors. The tax will shift to a market-driven Emissions Trading Scheme in 2015. The legislation is expected to drive innovation for less polluting ways of producing power, goods and services.
But there's also opposition to the tax - which, despite generous compensation packages - is expected to raise living costs such as electricity. Some opinion polls show that the carbon tax is only supported by less than four in 10 Australians.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has expressed its disappointment at the passage of the carbon tax legislation through the Senate today. “Ultimately, the carbon tax risks compromising the competitiveness of our agricultural industry,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.
Brett Heffernan from the Nationals has said in an official release today that “the public did not expect this tax, they have been denied the opportunity to vote on it, and today they rue the existence of the Labor Party – a body corrupted by its hunger for power at any price."
In a different form of criticism, Jon Dee, Founder and Managing Director of the advocacy group Do Something, told G-Online that he thinks that "the Government has got to 'walk the talk' on reducing emissions and energy use. If the Government wants major polluters to reduce their emissions, they've got to take the lead in showing them how... As a major energy user, the Government needs to set a positive example for those companies who are now going to be paying the carbon tax."
Do Something! is calling on all Government Agencies and Departments to reduce their energy use or emissions by 10 per cent as part of The 10% Challenge (tenpercentchallenge.com.au) to get companies to reduce their energy use and emissions by 10 per cent. Many major companies have already signed up.
"With the carbon price in place, the Federal Government now needs to start 'walking the talk' on energy efficiency. Government agencies and departments currently use enough energy to power 5 per cent of Australia's homes. If the Government reduced their energy use by just 10 per cent, they could save taxpayers over $40 million a year. Despite this, the Gillard Government has a poor track record when it comes to implementing energy efficiency programs across the whole of Government. That has got to change," says Dee.
Henry says that “industries that do want to contribute to creating a cleaner and healthier future for our children and grandchildren now have an incentive to find new, cleaner ways to do business".
Taking a congratulatory view for today's vote, Henry says he “would like to commend all the serving politicians – Labor, Green and independent – who have had the courage, foresight and determination to say yes in the parliament, despite the intense pressure they have faced from a well-funded scare campaign against this law by vested interests who don’t want to change".
“ACF encourages the government to move quickly to establish in law the important complementary parts of the clean energy package, particularly the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – the body that will help harness Australia’s massive untapped, abundant renewable energy resources.”
For a more detailed outline of what the Carbon Pricing scheme is, see G's news article from earlier this year 'Carbon pricing outlined', or for something more in-depth, check out our feature article 'Decoding the carbon tax'.