The Clean Energy Future legislation has finally been passed by both houses of the Australian parliament.
The much-debated price on carbon is the major part of this comprehensive package. A fixed price of $23 per tonne will apply after 1 July 2012 and will be paid by the country's largest polluters.. In three years this will become a flexible price.
Other important features are the $10 billion for renewable energy projects, $1 billion for a biodiversity fund and the commitment to close 200 MW of coal-fired electricity generation from up to three of the most polluting power stations. And then there is the package to compensate most households for price increases resulting from pricing carbon pollution.
It is a sad reflection on Australian politics that the serious threat of climate change could not have been dealt with in a bipartisan manner. Instead we've had to endure months of scare-mongering, exaggeration and posturing by those wanting to delay even further any effective action to move our nation towards coping with the complex changes ahead of us.
The need for urgent action has been further highlighted by a recent report from the US Department of Energy that worldwide about 512 million tonnes more carbon was pumped into the air last year than in 2009, an increase of 6 %.
Obviously time is running out for humanity to limit temperature rises and the associated extreme weather events. In addition there are a myriad other effects such as sea level rise and the associated humanitarian and economic costs, changes to rainfall patterns, migration of diseases such as malaria, and biodiversity loss – to mention but a few.
The Clean Energy Future legislation is an important first step that we need to build on to ensure that humanity and the wider community of life has a future.