Australia’s Lower House Passes Carbon Tax Bill

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 7:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Australia's lower house of parliament has passed a contentious new law on carbon emissions tax, ending years of heated debate.

Lawmakers passed a packet of measures Wednesday that will impose a levy on the country's biggest polluters starting July 1 of next year.

Polluters will be paying a fixed price of about $23 per ton of greenhouse gasses during the first year and a carbon-trading system will follow.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Clean Energy Bill is fiercely opposed by the opposition which argues that the carbon tax will cut jobs and increase the cost of living without reducing pollution.

Australia is one of the world's worst polluters and a major exporter of coal. It currently relies on coal to generate about 80 percent of its electricity.

The government has long worked on ways to reduce carbon emissions, but all previous bills have been defeated.

Thousands in Australia have protested the plan that caused Ms. Gillard's approval ratings to drop to the lowest level for any prime minister in 17 years.

The tax is aimed at reducing carbon emissions, which are blamed for global warming, to 95 percent of 2000 levels by the year 2020.

The European Union and New Zealand already have emission trading schemes and smaller regional plans are in place in Japan and the United States.