San Francisco Chronicle

Australia’s Parliament defeats global warming bill
San Francisco Chronicle

Australia’s Parliament defeated legislation to set up a greenhouse gas emissions trading system on Wednesday, throwing a central plank of the government’s plans to combat global warming into disarray.

The Senate, where Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government does not hold a majority, rejected his administration’s proposal for Australia to become one of the first countries to install a so-called cap-and-trade system to slash the amount of heat-trapping pollution that industries pump into the air.

The 41-33 vote followed a tumultuous debate in which the conservative main opposition party at first agreed to support a version of the government’s bill, then dramatically dumped its leader and switched sides after bitter divisions erupted within the party.

Rudd had wanted the legislation passed before he attends next week’s U.N. summit on climate change in Copenhagen so he could portray Australia as a world leader on the issue.

Opponents of the legislation say it amounts to a huge new tax on polluting industries such as power generators, which would put a crimp on the economy and lead to higher prices for consumers. Such costs would have no effect on the level of global greenhouse gas emissions, they say.