'Clean energy' bills passed by Australia's lower house

The Australian Parliament’s House of Representatives, its lower house, on Oct. 12 passed the Clean Energy Future bills, paving the way for imposition of a carbon tax.

The legislation, which passed by a narrow 74-72 vote margin, was supported by the Green member and two independents.

The bills now will head to the Senate, or upper house, where they are sure to pass, since Labor and the Greens have a majority.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard hailed the event, saying the bills would invariably change the behaviour of Australia’s largest polluters. Opposition leader Tony Abbott, on the other hand, said he would fight “tooth and nail” to repeal the tax and dismantle the bureaucracy associated with it.

Under the government’s package, a fixed carbon price of $23 (Aus.)/tonne will be imposed from July 1, 2012, rising 2.5%/year in real terms for 3 years.

In 2015, the package will convert to an emissions trading scheme with a floating price. It will have a floor of $15 (Aus.) and a ceiling of $20 (Aus.) above the expected national price to prevent volatility.

Included in the bills is legislation to create an Australian Renewable Energy Agency. This will be established on July 1, 2012, and oversee $3.2 billion (Aus.) in federal funding for renewable energy such as solar, biomass, biofuels, ocean, and geothermal energy. Of this total, $1.5 billion (Aus.) is committed to existing projects and $1.7 billion (Aus.) remains uncommitted.

In addition, there will be a $10 billion (Aus.) Clean Energy Finance Corp. that will invest in commercialization and deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean energy technologies.

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