Ice sculpture in Darling Harbour. Image by Kirsten Spry of Carbon Planet.

Ice sculpture in Darling Harbour. Image by Kirsten Spry.

There are only a few months left until leaders of the international community convene in Copenhagen to agree upon a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. Prime Minister Rudd has already declared that Australia will not go to the convention empty-handed. So far, Australia’s climate change legislation has faced some hurdles with its CPRS bill. However, with the recent approval of the renewable energy target, there is hope that Rudd will be able to keep his promise.

Following the defeat of Prime Minister Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) 42-30 by the Senate on August 13th, the Renewable Energy Target was split from Rudd’s controversial carbon trading legislation. The new legislation – calling for a 20 per cent renewable energy target – was subsequently approved when brought before the Senate again last Friday.

This new target matches the renewable energy target set by the European Union and means that, within a decade, all Australian households could be powered by renewable energy. While the Greens argue that this renewable energy target should be 30 per cent, it is huge increase from the 8 per cent target in place prior to the bill’s approval.

Upon the failure of Rudd’s CPRS scheme, Minister of Water and Climate Change, Penny Wong, vowed to bring the legislation up for a vote once more in three months time.

“I urge those opposite who have become supporters of renewable energy in recent times to join the bigger fight, the bigger fight against climate change, and I urge them to support when the government next presents the carbon pollution reduction scheme,” says Wong.

With the approval of the new renewable energy targets, Australia is guaranteed at least some legislation on hand in Copenhagen. However, the Rudd government faces an uphill battle in the months ahead to get their carbon trading scheme through.

With one failure already on its books, the carbon trading legislation will need re-tooling over the course of the next three months in order to stand a chance at success.

In its current form, the proposed legislation faced several opponents who will make the same claims in the next round of votes if their concerns are not appeased. These opponents included the Greens, Conservatives and independent senators who blocked the emissions trade scheme due to its impact on the economy, environment, and on jobs for Australians.

With so many groups to appease, can Rudd make the necessary adjustments in time to get his carbon trading legislation through parliament? The timing might be short, but the Opposition has already begun drafting amendments for the bill and Government continues to have talks with the coal industry.

It may be impossible to please every opponent, but hopefully by mid-November, some form of consensus will be reached on an emissions trading scheme for Australia, allowing Rudd to bring a solid example of Australia’s commitment to combat climate change with him to Copenhagen.

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