Australia scraps carbon tax
Legislation to scrap the carbon tax passed Australia’s Federal Parliament, as GE became the latest big foreign investor to voice concern over the uncertainty hanging over the country’s renewable energy target (RET).
The Australian Senate voted to get rid of the price on carbon by 39 to 32, making Australia the first country to repeal such a policy.
Introduced in July 2012, the carbon tax charges the 348 biggest polluters A$23 ($21.50) for every tonne of greenhouse gases they produce.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott now says he plans to replace it with A$2.55bn taxpayer-funded plan under which industries will be paid to reduce emissions and use cleaner energy.
The Climate Institute think-tank issued a statement criticising the move, saying that it left Australia "bereft of credible climate policy".
"By repealing laws that price and limit carbon pollution, Australia today became the world's first country to dismantle a functioning and effective carbon market, taking a monumentally reckless backward leap even as other major countries are stepping up climate action," it says.
The legislation passed with the support of the Palmer United Party (PUP), which earlier this month backed a package to save the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena).
The outcome of a review of Australia’s RET is due later this month.
PUP announced that, regardless of the review’s results, it will block any changes until 2016, as it holds the balance of power in the Senate.
However, large foreign investors in the country's renewable energy sector continued to express anxiety at the policy upheavals.
"If there is a change [to the RET] I would like to see one that gives us and other investors, confidence that it is going to stay in place for a while," GE vice chairman John Rice told The Australian newspaper.
Rice called on the Abbott government to end the political uncertainty and not impose a target that "might change again in a few years”.