No Punishment for Australia's Carbon Polluters Under Direct Action; Abbott Credibility 'Hanging by a Thread'

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By Reissa Su | January 7, 2014 1:40 PM EST

Carbon polluters in Australia will not be punished under the Abbott government's Direct Action plan. Prime Minister Tony Abbott's climate policy was not designed to be punitive, according to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

REUTERS/Daniel Munoz
A man takes part in a protest against the carbon tax in central Sydney. June 8, 2012.

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Unlike Labour's carbon tax policy, the Coalition government does not penalise companies that fail to comply with emissions targets. Instead of penalties, the federal government will offer generous and flexible compliance settlements.

According to the government's green paper, Australia will not generate revenue from companies who have not met carbon emission targets. In the event a company exceeds targets, it will have the option to work under flexible compliance arrangements.

The Coalition explained that the Direct Action approach will allow companies to invest in carbon emission reduction projects with potential support from the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Australia has a standing national commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by the year 2020.

According to Labour environment spokesman Tony Burke, the federal government's green paper was a "dressed-up slush fund" which he thought was costly and ineffective. The Direct Action Plan will make use of taxpayer funds to buy carbon emissions reductions.  In contrast, the previous Labour government imposed carbon tax to raise funds directly from business.

Abbott's credibility in climate change action questioned

Australian Climate Institute CEO John Connor remarked that Tony Abbott's credibility in dealing with climate change is now "hanging by a thread," following the revelations of non-penalty to carbon polluters.

Mr Connor said the Abbott government does not intend businesses to be responsible for the carbon pollution they make. Although the Abbott government is convinced climate change is mostly caused by humans and believed in the need to take action, it will not spend anything if the Direct Action plan does not meet the 5 per cent emissions target.

After the Bureau of Meteorology has announced 2013 as the hottest year in Australia, the spotlight shines on Prime Minister Tony Abbott as critics seized an opportunity to call for a climate policy change.

Political opponents of Mr Abbott have more reason to compel him abandon the scrapping of carbon pricing laws. The Australian Labour Party and the Greens used the Annual Climate Statement of the weather bureau to call on the Abbott government to reassess its current climate change policies. According to a report by the Guardian, Richard Di Nitale, acting Greens leader, called Mr Abbott a "reckless ideologue who ignores the science." Mr Abbott was also accused of "listening to people who are part of the tinfoil hat brigade."

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(Photo: REUTERS/Daniel Munoz / )
A man takes part in a protest against the carbon tax in central Sydney. June 8, 2012.
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