Prime Minister John Howard announced some details of a planned carbon-trading trading scheme for Australia on Tuesday, but avoided setting targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
CANBERRA, Australia -- Prime Minister John Howard announced some details of a planned carbon-trading trading scheme for Australia on Tuesday, but avoided setting targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Businesses and conservationists say setting such targets are vital to making any trading system work, but Howard warned that rushing into a scheme too soon would damage the economy.
He said the government would set reduction targets next year after the impact of various models had been tested, and set a deadline of 2011 for the carbon trading scheme.
"All the good intentions in the world are worthless if we wreck our economy for no environmental gain," Howard said in a speech in the southern city of Melbourne.
"With so much at stake we must not confuse panic with virtue," he said.
Global warming is a major political issue in Australia and elections are due this year.
Critics say Howard does not want to commit to reduction targets until after the elections because he fears a backlash from voters if he sets them too low and one from business supporters if he sets them too high.
Howard on Tuesday announced new measures worth 627 Australian dollars (US$546 million; euro396 million) to combat global warming, including solar hot water systems and water tanks for thousands of schools.
Other measures include new research into the potential of nuclear energy in Australia, and a rebate for households that install solar hot water heaters.
On the carbon-trading plans, Howard said the government would help businesses cope with the costs of reducing emissions and recognize companies that started cutting their emissions before the scheme began.
Carbon credits would be both handed out by the government and auctioned, he said.
Conservationists said compensating businesses and allocating credits by handout will undercut carbon trading's effectiveness, and criticized Howard's speech as offering too little.
"If you read between the lines of the prime minister's speech, the clear signal being sent is that it is business as usual for the large industrial coal polluters," said Greenpeace energy campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick.
Australia -- one of the world's worst polluters per capita -- and the United States are the only fully industrialized countries that have refused to accept the Kyoto agreement's goals for greenhouse gas emission targets.
"Australia will more than play its part to address climate change, but we will do it in a practical and balanced way," Howard said on an announcement posted Tuesday on YouTube.
Howard has said he wants to make climate change an issue at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in Sydney in September, saying the forum has the potential to achieve global headway on the issue because it draws together the world's biggest emitters, China and the United States.
Under a cap and trade system, a government set a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases allowed, then breaks up that total into chunks and assigns them a value. The chunks are then traded between emitters.
Source: Associated Press