SYDNEY (AFP) — Australia's plans to introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme by 2010 will not be delayed by the global financial crisis, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Tuesday.
Rudd is under increasing pressure to defer the scheme, which will set an overall limit on the amount of carbon emissions the economy can produce, given its cost to businesses already grappling with the credit crunch.
But the premier, who announced a 10.4 billion dollar (7.25 billion US) economic stimulus package to counter the slowdown caused by the world financial crisis, said the environment remained a priority.
"Our ambition remains 2010," he said. "Climate change is not going to go away," he said.
"The long-term economic cost to the entire economy, and to the entire global economy, of not acting on climate change remains formidable."
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the economic crisis would be taken into account as the carbon emissions trading scheme was designed.
"The current financial crisis does not lessen the need for the nations of the world to deal with climate change," she told national radio.
She was responding to Don Voelte, chief executive of leading energy company Woodside Petroleum, who said the trading scheme should be shelved given the economic uncertainty.
"You can't put something like that in at this time until we get this whole fiscal chaos that is going on in the world straightened out," he said.
"No government can risk jobs in the economy until we get stabilisation within the world marketplace," he told ABC radio.
Australia has committed to introducing a "cap-and-trade" carbon trading scheme under which the government provides permits to industry to produce carbon emissions, which have been blamed for global warming, up to a certain amount.
Companies can then trade their permits, meaning carbon-intensive industries will have to pay extra if they want to exceed their allocation, a system the government believes will provide a market-based incentive to reduce pollution.
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