[JURIST] The Australian Senate [official website] voted 36-32 Tuesday to approve legislation [materials] that will impose a price on carbon emissions in an effort to improve the environment and the country’s economy. The new law will put a fixed rate of A$23 per ton on carbon units with limits on how many can be auctioned and given out. The fixed price rate will take effect July 1, 2012, and will be raised each year until 2015. After 2015, the Clean Energy Regulator [official website] will be charged with setting out a new price for the units each year. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a press conference [transcript]:
This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 Parliamentary inquiries and years of bitter debate and division. … Today’s vote means that the hard work now begins to cut carbon pollution and we will do that, cutting carbon pollution by 160 million tonnes in 2020, the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road.
Money raised from the carbon units tax will be used to fund tax cuts [press release] for Australian households, and the law is expected to create new jobs in development of clean energy sources.
Passage of this law comes as world leaders prepare to attend the Durban Climate Change Conference [official website] next month to discuss global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The Australian Senate rejected a similar bill [JURIST report] right before the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference that would have established a cap-and-trade system and gone into effect in July 2011. Opposition to the 2009 bill claimed it would result in higher energy prices and that it would be useless for Australia to adopt cap-and-trade if the US did not also adopt a similar system. The US has still failed to adopt such a system, but President Barack Obama continues to push for it even as he is met with strong opposition by legislators concerned about negative effects on jobs and the economy.