THE VINE AUGUST 13, 2009
Earlier today (or maybe it should be later today, what with time zones and all), Australia's parliament rejected a climate bill that included a cap-and-trade scheme for greenhouse-gas emissions. Conservatives in the Senate teamed up with Greens and independents to nix the measure, which aimed to reduce coal-heavy Australia's carbon-dioxide emissions a relatively modest 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020.
Oddly, though, this might actually be a positive development for climate policy in Australia. As Todd Woody explains over at Grist, the ruling Labor Party can reintroduce the bill in the next few months. If the Senate rejects it yet again, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would be allowed to dissolve the parliament and call for elections. Recent polling has shown that a majority of Australians support the carbon-trading scheme, and the government has a good shot of gaining in the next election and being able to pass a stronger climate bill.
Then again, the other possibility is that the opposition will just negotiate to water down the bill further to protect the country's mining industry (Australia gets 85 percent of its electricity from coal and leads the world in emissions per capita). It appears Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull wants Australia's trading scheme to more closely resemble Waxman-Markey—exempting agriculture entirely and giving away pollution credits to industry for free rather than auctioning them off.
Incidentally, one of the largest, most influential opponents of the Australian bill was U.S. coal behemoth Peabody Energy, whose CEO Gregory Boyce seems to think global warming is all hokum and is betting big on dirty coal's continued viability. For that matter, Peabody's been hyperactive in the U.S. climate debate, too, spending more than $10 million lobbying Congress over the last two years, including $780,000 for Dick Gephardt to stalk the halls of Capitol Hill, presumably preaching the virtues of coal.