Emissions trading has become the latest non-negotiable action plan to be put in the too-hard basket, now delayed for at least six months.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Thursday that the emissions trading scheme (ETS) would start at the end of 2010. This follows hard lobbying by the Australian Industry Group (AIG), which has called on the government to delay emissions trading until 2012..
"Our scheme is not proposed to be introduced until the end of 2010,” Mr Rudd told the Fairfax Radio Network. The government said last year the scheme would start on July 1, 2010.
The Opposition is making hay while the sun is shining.
“[Last week] we saw the collapse of Federal Labor’s economic credibility,” said the leader of The Nationals, Warren Truss. “[Now] we see the collapse of Labor’s political credibility.
“Mr Rudd has such a belief in the ETS and dealing with climate change – which he once referred to as ‘the great moral challenge of our time’ – that he is delaying the introduction of his ETS until after the next election.
“It is also an obvious political ploy to help Labor Premier Anna Bligh in this month’s Queensland election.
“Mr Rudd has said today that the ETS was ‘not proposed to be introduced until the end of 2010’. He obviously didn’t tell his Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, who as recently as last Friday was standing by the timetable of a July 1 start date.
“Senator Wong’s department has also been telling interested parties in writing that July 1, 2010 was the critical date. If we can’t trust Labor on something as basic as this, can it be trusted on anything?
“This is a pathetic example of political cowardice. Labor should acknowledge that its ‘go it alone’ ETS is fatally flawed and its approach to climate change needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up,” he said.
Delay of carbon trading not just about the financial crisis
The federal government’s apparent decision to delay the carbon trading scheme by around six months may still leave Australia unprepared for its introduction, according to carbon trading expert, Jan Brandjes of Carbon Focus.
"The government has bought itself and the business community more time but even with another six months, both may well find themselves caught out by the introduction of the emissions trading scheme," says Jan Brandjes.
Mr Brandjes is in the midst of organising the Carbon Reduction & Trading Conference and says most businesses remain in the dark about even the most basic concepts associated with the new emissions regulations.
"Most don’t even realise they need to act, let alone what they need to do," he said. "Even if business started today in earnest, Australia’s business community was bound to miss the July 1 deadline because it was simply unprepared. If they do treat this extra breathing space as a holiday, we’ll see a repeat of the disastrous UK experience."
Among the presenters at the Carbon Reduction & Trading Conference will be Rob Cawthorne and Andrew Barson of the Carbon Reduction Institute. The pair will explain how small to medium enterprises can cope with the downwards pressure from large emitting companies.
"In the UK, hundreds of thousands of businesses were completely caught out because the perception that only the large companies and organisations were going to be affected left many CEOs and managers asleep at the wheel," Mr Brandjes said. "It looks like it won’t be any different here."