Australia Moves Forward on Carbon Taxes for Biggest Polluters

The Australian government revealed plans over the weekend to place a carbon tax on the country’s biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.

The announcement is the latest in an ongoing effort by the Labor party to impose GHG limits in the country, which is one of the world’s worst emitters of per capita carbon emissions due to heavy reliance on domestic coal for power generation. 

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says carbon emissions of roughly 500 companies would be taxed at A$23 (US$25) per ton beginning July 1, 2012. The tax would rise 2.5% a year until 2015 when an emissions trading scheme is set to begin.

The plan is expected to cut carbon pollution by 159 million tons by 2020 or by 5% based on year 2000 levels. But it first must make its way through a deeply divided Parliament. 

Opposition leader Tony Abbott says his Conservative party will fight the carbon tax, and public opinion polls show about 60% of the general public opposes it – it’s expected to raise consumer prices by a little less than 1%.

Gillard is offering to cut low- and middle-income taxes to gain public support. And the government plans to increase subsidies by A$9.2 billion for heavy polluting industries like steel and aluminum to help them comply. 

It will be a tough battle – the Labor Party holds the thinnest of margins – one seat – in the lower house of Parliament.

55 companies have pledged their support for a carbon tax so far, including GE, Fujitsu, IKEA, Alstom and Pacific Hydro. The combined businesses represent a wide variety of economic sectors: infrastructure, energy, capital, technology and retail.

Here’s what they signed onto:

"As major Australian and international corporations and representative associations operating across the Australian economy we strongly support the introduction of a well designed carbon price to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Australia must aim to be globally competitive in clean energy, energy efficiency and low carbon technology. Pricing carbon is critical to providing business certainty and unlocking the jobs and investment that will accompany the transition to a prosperous, cleaner and internationally-competitive economy.

As the costs of action are outweighed by the costs of delay, the carbon price should be implemented as soon as possible. A price should be accompanied by appropriate transitional assistance for households and business, as well as complementary measures that reduce emissions at least economic cost.

We look forward to working with the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee and all members of Parliament as they implement a carbon price.

Businesses that wish to add their name, can do so here: Business for a Clean Economy website:

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