Greens get even with a summit on carbon goal
THE Greens have called their own carbon price summit next week to try to build momentum for an ambitious greenhouse policy as the cross-party climate change committee gets down to work.
Labor has set up its own business and non-government advisory groups, reporting to a special cabinet subcommittee that will take final decisions on the politically fraught issue.
The Greens senator Christine Milne is understood to have been unimpressed that the advisory groups bypassed the cross-party committee of Labor, Greens and independent MPs, which was a big justification for the Greens supporting Labor to form government.
Senator Milne is now hosting her own summit, inviting business leaders from Lend Lease, GE Power and Water, Vestas, AGL and other companies, environmental organisations and other interested groups to a summit in Canberra next Friday.
''We are at a critical moment in the push for a carbon price in Australia,'' she wrote in the invitation to the summit. ''Once again, those who want no action or weak action are massing. Those of us who want strong action need to come together now if we are to make it a reality.''
The cross-party committee has its second meeting on Wednesday. It is considering all options to put a price on carbon, including a tax or an emissions trading scheme with an initially fixed price while international talks on climate continue. It will also recommend whether a price should apply across the economy or just to the electricity sector, and will report by the end of next year.
The government's final decision will then be taken by a cabinet subcommittee comprising the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, the Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, the Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, and the Industry Minister, Kim Carr.
Labor and the Greens have said they hope to put aside their differences over the ambition of Australia's greenhouse gas reduction targets that saw the Greens refuse to support the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme, and instead find a way to get started with a carbon price.
But the battle over the ambition of the scheme is now likely to be fought out over the price that emitters will be charged.
In the invitation Senator Milne says the Greens ''do not wish to set up a competing forum'' to the government's advisory groups, but ''we believe that we all need to talk to each other, and we need you to assist us to develop the most environmentally effective and economically efficient carbon price mechanism that we can achieve in the current political context''.
Meanwhile the Coalition seized on the admission by the US President, Barack Obama, after the midterm congressional elections, that he would not be able to legislate an emissions trading scheme.
The opposition climate action spokesman, Greg Hunt, said it was ''an embarrassing setback'' for Labor.