Agriculture now to be exempt from Warmist laws but that blows a huge hole in any effect the laws might have. Rudd is showing his Chinese influences: He is now just trying to save face. He cares about global warming about as much as I do
In a shock move, the Federal Government has decided to exempt all agriculture from its proposed emissions trading scheme, turning up the heat on Malcolm Turnbull's Opposition leadership. The Coalition has been calling for the exemption – and the Government's surprise move dramatically raises the stakes for Mr Turnbull to close a deal with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to pass the ETS in the next two weeks of Parliament.
Yet sections of the Opposition Leader's Liberal Party and the Nationals are likely to remain opposed to any such deal regardless, leaving Mr Turnbull's authority in shreds.
The surprise concession by the Government will be announced by Senator Wong today ahead of the resumption of Parliament this week. The initiative will also isolate the Nationals, who have been using the inclusion of agriculture in the proposed scheme by 2015 to spearhead its opposition to the package.
Senator Wong's announcement is likely to get backing for the scheme from key Nationals constituencies such as the National Farmers Federation, which has been lobbying heavily for such a decision. In another concession, Senator Wong will also announce the Government will develop plans to give farmers carbon credits for any efforts to capture and store carbon as part of their farm practices.
Opposition climate change spokesman Ian Macfarlane has been locked in talks with Senator Wong trying to negotiate a deal to get the scheme through the Senate. By announcing the exemption of agriculture, the Government will be able to say it has made major concessions and Mr Turnbull should now secure the backing of his party room to pass the scheme.
But Mr Turnbull is still likely to face a revolt. A number of Liberals, including Senate Leader Nick Minchin and senators Cory Bernardi and Julian McGauran, along with WA backbenchers Dennis Jensen and Wilson Tuckey, remain sceptical of the idea of man-made global warming and the Nationals are continuing to oppose the ETS outright. A refusal by the joint party room to back a compromise that includes the exemption of agriculture could make Mr Turnbull's leadership untenable. He has previously said he does not want to lead a party that does not embrace the idea of climate change.
The exclusion of agriculture had been presented by Mr Macfarlane as a "deal-breaker" in the ongoing talks. The move by the Government means farmers now will not have to buy permits for their carbon emissions, substantially reducing farm costs.
The exemption is likely to be attacked by economists, who argue that to be effective a carbon emissions system must be broadly based to share the huge costs. If one sector is exempted it increases costs on other sectors, such as energy-producing industries.
The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has estimated Australia has the potential to store up to a billion tonnes of carbon a year for the next 40 years through improved pasture management and farm practices. The group says if Australia were to capture just 15 per cent of this capacity, it would offset the equivalent of 25 per cent of our current annual greenhouse emissions over that period. Under the new concessions farmers will be compensated for such carbon offsets, opening up new sources of income.
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