Australia unveils vision of low carbon future

19 July 2011

The Australian government has proposed a raft of measures designed to cut the country’s carbon emissions and boost investment in low-carbon technologies. While nuclear is not currently part of Australia's energy plan these measures could help incentivise the technology.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants to put a price on carbon pollution, close Australia’s most polluting power generators and expand the clean and renewable energy sector.

The proposals are the country’s largest economic and environmental reform in a generation with far-reaching implications for Australia’s coal-dependent economy.

They include a legislated target to reduce Australia’s emissions by 80 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050 – an increase on the previous target of 60 per cent. Gillard also wants to increase the renewable energy target to 20 per cent by 2020 and close 2000 MW of coal-fired generating capacity by 2020.

The proposals are likely to polarise voters as well as the political parties but are necessary because carbon emissions will continue to rise with economic growth, says the government.

Australia has the world’s highest per-capita carbon emissions.

At the heart of the new scheme is a fixed A$23/tonne carbon tax that would be payable by around 500 companies from July 2012. This would transition in July 2015 to a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme that will be the largest of its kind outside Europe.

Australia’s parliament has rejected two previous attempts to tax carbon emissions. It is expected to vote on Gillard’s proposals in October. To overcome opposition, Gillard has proposed that more than A$24 billion raised from pollution permit sales would be distributed to households through tax cuts.

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