Aussies buck environmentalists, fight to repeal global warming taxes

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Australia’s new conservative government introduced legislation that would eliminate the carbon tax and cut funding to green energy in a series of aggressive moves to scale back the country’s environmental laws.

“We have said what we mean, and will do what we say. The carbon tax goes,” Prime Minister Abbott told Australian lawmakers. “Repealing the carbon tax should be the first economic reform of this parliament.”

The Liberal-National Party swept seats in September’s election in large part due to their opposition to the left-wing Labor Party’s imposition of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The unpopular tax was blamed for rising power bills and hurting economic growth. Abbott has touted his party’s bill to repeal the carbon tax as “our bill to reduce your bills.”

However, this is only a portion of the Abbott government’s agenda. The carbon tax repeal plan will also cut $435 million in Australian dollars funding to the country’s renewable energy bureaucracy, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The move was met with hostility from environmental groups who believe that funding cuts will cause the country to fall behind in the global marketplace.

“The axing of $435 million from ARENA will starve research and development of clean energy in Australia, moving us to the back of the global race for clean tech,” said Tony Mohr, a campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The Abbott government also bucked the most recent round of United Nations climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland as the Australia’s environment minister and foreign minister will not be attending the meetings. The environment minister, Greg Hunt, has said that repealing the carbon tax will consume all his efforts in the coming months.

“Minister Hunt indicated a month ago at the Sustainable Business Australia forum that he will be fully engaged in repealing the carbon tax during the first two weeks of parliament,” a spokesman for Hunt told the Guardian.

Furthermore, Australia’s conservative coalition is also reconsidering international climate funding. The fund asks developed countries to give developing nations $100 billion per year by 2020. Australia has already kicked in $500,000 last year and $600 million for a precursor to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

“The Green Climate Fund is currently in the design phase and Australia will consider its longer term involvement in the fund once its design has been further progressed,” said a spokeswoman for the Aussie foreign minister, Julie Bishop.

While Australia’s actions to roll back the green agenda have environmentalists kicking and screaming, the country received praise from Canada’s ruling party — that country rejected a carbon tax in 2008.

“The Australian Prime Minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message,” said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra. “Our government knows that carbon taxes raise the price of everything, including gas, groceries, and electricity.”

“Greenhouse gas emissions are down since 2006, and we’ve created one million net new jobs since the recession and we have done this without penalizing Canadian families with a carbon tax,” Calandra added.

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