The climate may be more amenable to building up the relationship with the US since the election. Photo: AFP
THE Australian government has wasted little time to sound out the newly re-elected Barack Obama over his administration's climate change policies and the potential to work more closely together.
An issue excluded from the US presidential debates, the argument over global warming was revived when superstorm Sandy slammed into north-eastern US states a week before polling day, leaving a damage bill some expect to exceed $US50 billion ($A48 billion).
Mr Obama signalled his intention to tackle climate change in his second term during his acceptance speech in Chicago, where he underlined the issue as among his top priorities.
Barack Obama has signalled his intention to tackle climate change. Photo: AFP
''We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt; that isn't weakened by inequality; that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,'' he said.
Australia's Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, told the Carbon Expo conference in Melbourne on Friday that he was ''very pleased'' with Mr Obama's victory, and said he held already spoken on the issue with his US counterpart since the elections.
''I think the White House will be looking, over the course of the next four years, to be in a position to try to advance action on climate change in the US,'' he said.
Mr Combet, through a spokesman, declined to expand on the details of the discussions.
The minister has also been discussing the prospects of linking Australia's planned market for greenhouse gas emissions with California. The biggest US state will auction its first pollution permits this week with the emissions trading scheme (ETS) to start on January 1.
Mr Combet said support for a price on carbon would grow here and in the US as people saw that economies continued to grow despite the impost.
By next year, more than 50 national or sub-national regions are expected to have an emissions trading scheme, covering a combined 1.1 billion people. Based on announced policies, by 2020 about 3 billion people would be living in regions where polluters paid for their emissions, he said.
Next year, Guangdong province, which abuts Hong Kong and is itself Australia's sixth-largest trading partner, will begin a trial ETS.
China plans to develop a national trading scheme by 2015, a step Mr Combet said would make it even harder for a Coalition government in Canberra to proceed with its plans to scrap a carbon price.
Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said a Coalition government would issue a white paper within 30 days of winning government on its preferred Direct Action plan on cutting emissions.
After two rounds of consultations on the legislation to dismantle the carbon tax and planned ETS by 2015, the legislation would go to Parliament by the 150th day in office, he said.
Australian Paper, one of the companies among the 317 facing a carbon price, was managing ''the best we can'', Paul Amery, group commercial manager, told the conference.
Its planning horizon extended only to the end of next year, after which the company would probably reassess its calculations, he said.
Mathew Nelson, a partner at Ernst & Young in charge of its climate change services unit, said companies had so far focused on making sure that they were compliant with the new carbon policies.
With international carbon permits trading at a fraction of Australia's $23-a-tonne rate, Australian companies should now consider how they can take advantage of the price difference, especially as Australia plans to link its ETS with Europe's in 2015. ''It does start to stack up, even taking into consideration relatively high capital costs of locking cash up to buy'' internationally traded permits, Mr Nelson said. ''We'd strongly advise businesses not to use [political uncertainty] as an excuse not to do anything,'' he said.