SYDNEY – Australia’s Parliament defeated legislation to set up a greenhouse gas emissions trading system today, throwing a central plank of the government’s plans to combat global warming into disarray.
The Senate, where Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government does not hold a majority, rejected his administration’s proposal for Australia to become one of the first countries to install a so-called cap-and-trade system to slash the amount of heat-trapping pollution that industries pump into the air.
The 41-33 vote followed a tumultuous debate in which the conservative main opposition party at first agreed to support a version of the government’s bill, then dramatically dumped its leader and switched sides after bitter divisions erupted within the party.
Rudd had wanted the legislation passed before he attends next week’s U.N. summit on climate change in Copenhagen so he could portray Australia as a world leader on the issue. The government’s next step is unclear.
Under the government’s plan, an annual limit would be placed on the amount of greenhouse gases allowed to be pumped into the atmosphere and permits would be issued to regulate that ceiling. The permits could be bought and sold, setting up a market system that would make reducing emissions potentially profitable for polluting companies.