Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was left angrily defending his ditched emissions trading scheme last night, but if laws in the US go through, Australia may find its exports subject to carbon tariffs as the US moves towards establishing its own scheme.
Draft US laws to set up an ETS and tackle climate change will be made public on Thursday.
President Barack Obama wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent by 2020.
Progress towards a US scheme is in contrast to the situation in Australia, where opposition forced the PM to backflip on his pledge to start emissions trading this year.
Mr Rudd, who has previously described climate change as “the great moral challenge of our time”, now says laws to set up an ETS will not be considered until 2013.
The prime minister blames the ETS delay on a lack of progress internationally and an obstructionist Senate.
ETS could cover electricity generation, industry and manufacturing.
The US is the biggest historical contributor to greenhouse pollution, and its perceived lack of action on climate change is a major stumbling block to a global climate deal.
It’s believed the draft US laws, co-sponsored by Democrat John Kerry, will include an ETS to cover electricity generation and, possibly, industry and manufacturing.
The US scheme may levy so-called carbon tariffs on products imported from countries that don’t have a carbon price.
New regulations on greenhouse pollution and a boost to renewable and nuclear energy are expected to be included in the US bills.
A spokesman for Australia’s Climate Institute said the US was moving one step closer to an ETS.
“Australia is increasingly falling even further behind in the race to remain competitive in the clean energy economy,” he said.
Tony Mohr from the Australian Conservation Foundation said Australia’s claims about a lack of progress in other countries were not borne out by the evidence.
“Certainly other countries are acting, and they’re leaving Australia behind,” he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood by the ETS delay on MTR Radio
because “we’ve got to be mindful of action on the part of the rest
of the world”.
He said he was acting on climate change by investing in renewable energy and told Channel 7: “Climate change ain’t going away”.
Tough time for climate laws in Senate
The US climate laws could be in for a rough ride as they do not appear to have majority support in the Senate. They have passed the lower house.
Meanwhile, laws to amend an Australian scheme to boost renewable energy have been tabled in parliament.
The laws would guarantee support for larger-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, from the Renewable Energy
The scheme has so far been swamped by demand for funding of small-scale renewable energy measures such as household solar panels.
The government has also announced a short list of eight companies vying to build solar power plants under a $1.5 billion scheme.