Environment Minister Greg Hunt is working overtime to strike a deal to pass the government’s Direct Action plan through parliament.
The federal government is quietly confident of reaching a deal to pass its Direct Action climate policy through the Senate.
The Carbon Farming Initiative bill – which implements the $2.5 billion Direct Action plan – is before the Senate, which has only three more sitting weeks before the year’s end.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has been stepping up efforts in public and behind the scenes to pass the bill in the coming fortnight of parliament sittings.
The government needs either six crossbenchers, the 10 Greens or the Labor opposition’s support to pass the laws.
Government figures believe the Palmer United Party’s position – supporting Direct Action in exchange for a zero-rated emissions trading scheme which kicks in only when a global ETS starts – has been softening over the past few months.
Greens leader Christine Milne, who has met with Mr Hunt, dealt the party back into the talks by offering in a recent speech to put some “spine and rigour” into Direct Action if the renewable energy target is retained.
The government is considering a review’s report into the RET, but has committed to retaining the target of 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Mr Hunt said he wanted to get the bill passed this month.
He said many of the indigenous and local council projects funded under the $2.5 billion program were Labor-Greens initiatives and it made no sense for the funds to be cut off.
“I would call on the ALP and the Greens to support the very projects which before the election they thought were fundamental, and not to be wreckers or blockers,” Mr Hunt told Sky News on Wednesday.
Extending an olive branch to the Greens, he said the government was committed to securing a new global agreement at climate talks in Paris in 2015.
The minister said the upcoming G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane, which had energy efficiency on the agenda, would form part of the process in coming to a new global agreement.
Former treasurer Wayne Swan said listing energy efficiency on the G20 agenda was a “fig leaf” for Australia’s inaction on climate change.
“In the corridors of Washington, Berlin and elsewhere there is genuine dismay about the lack of attention to climate change in the G20 agenda,” Mr Swan told the Lowy Institute in Sydney.
It is understood some Labor caucus members are concerned the party is dealing itself out of climate change policy by opposing Direct Action altogether.
Labor climate spokesman Mark Butler said the policy would not cut carbon pollution or reduce the burden on families.
“Labor will not support the government’s plan to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars on a plan that no economist or climate scientist thinks will work,” he said.