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Australian govt compromises on climate change bill
By TANALEE SMITH
Associated Press
2009-08-16 05:43 PM
The Australian government split a climate change bill that would cut greenhouse gases and force the use of renewable energy into two parts Sunday in an effort to break a deadlock in the Senate, which voted against the legislation this past week.

While opposition parties support the bill's plan for 20 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020, lawmakers had bickered over a plan to slash and tax carbon emissions. The opposition Liberal party had urged the government to split the bill so the renewable energy portion was not dependent on the carbon emissions scheme.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the renewable energy portion of the bill would now be voted on separately from the emissions trading scheme, which sets a national cap on carbon emissions and allows for the selling and trading of permits that allow large industries extra emissions.

"We think the best arrangement would have been the one we put forward, but we're serious about renewable energy so we have gone to Plan B," Wong told reporters in Canberra.

The Senate voted Thursday to reject the combined legislation, which proposes a tax on industries' carbon emissions starting in 2011 and a limit on Australia's overall pollution.

The government wants to slash Australia's emissions by up to 25 percent from 2000 levels by 2020 if the United Nations can agree on tough global targets at a Copenhagen summit in December.

Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull called Wong's announcement "a victory for common sense."

"We'll certainly negotiate with her in good faith in the course of this week with the view of getting the renewable target legislation passed," Turnbull told reporters in Sydney. "What she should now do, now that she's in such an accommodating state of mind, is sit down and negotiate with us about the emissions trading scheme. We're prepared to support legislation if it's in the right shape."

With Sunday's splitting of the bill, the government hopes to pass the renewable sources legislation next week.

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