Gillard Hails Australia’s Future After Carbon Tax Passage

Posted October 12th, 2011 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is calling for her country to aggressively seize the future following the passage by parliament of a contentious bill to tax large polluters.

The new carbon tax passed with a narrow two-vote majority on Wednesday despite fierce criticism from industry and the parliamentary opposition, which argued the tax will drive up costs for all Australians.

The proposal has helped drive the prime minister's popularity in Australia to a 17-year low. But she told parliament Wednesday its action has opened up a new clean-energy future for the country.

She said the tax will reduce carbon pollution by 160 million tons by 2020, the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road.

Beginning July 1, Australian companies will pay a $23 tax for every ton of greenhouse gases they emit. After one year, a carbon-trading system will be introduced.

Australia is one of the world's worst polluters on a per-capita basis, relying on its large coal reserves 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.

A similar carbon-reduction proposal contributed to the downfall of Ms. Gillard's predecessor, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

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