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Australia mulling more coal support in carbon plans

AUSTRALIA'S government is considering doubling compensation for coal miners under its carbon trade scheme, media reports said today, as a new poll found Australians want the plan delayed to next year.

Australia is the world's top coal exporter but the coal industry has complained the planned emissions trading system (ETS), due to start in July 2011, would force mines to close and lead to thousands of job losses.

The Australian newspaper said the government was considering lifting compensation under the ETS for the coal industry to A$1.5 billion (US$1.24 billion) to protect jobs and help build political support for its scheme.

The government had previously offered the coal industry A$750 million in compensation for the ETS, but the Australian Coal Association said the scheme would cost the industry about A$14.5 billion over 10 years.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants laws to set up carbon trading, and lock in an emissions reduction target of up to 25 percent by 2020, passed by parliament ahead of global climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

The laws remain locked in parliament's upper house Senate, where the government needs an extra seven votes to pass its legislation, and are set to be defeated when a vote is taken on Aug. 13.

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has said he would be willing to pass the laws if the government agrees to a series of amendments, including measures to better protect the coal and coal-fired electricity sectors.

If the laws are rejected twice, Rudd, who remains well ahead in opinion polls, could have the option of calling a snap election in early 2010, rather than waiting for the next scheduled election in late 2010 or early 2011.

A Newspoll in the Australian newspaper today found Rudd had extended his lead over the opposition and would easily win an election held now, with 57 percent support compared to 43 percent for the opposition.

It found Rudd also held a 50-point lead as preferred prime minister, with 66 percent personal support compared to just 16 percent for Turnbull, who leads an opposition which is divided over the ETS and climate change policies.

The Newspoll also said 53 percent of those polled believed Australia should either wait until after the Copenhagen talks before it passes its ETS laws, or should not introduce carbon trading at all.

Australia's scheme will cover 1,000 of Australia's biggest companies and will put a price on carbon pollution, giving business a financial incentive to curb emissions over time.

Australia produces about 1.5 percent of the world's carbon emissions, but is one of the leading per-capita polluters due to its reliance on coal fired power for about 80 percent of the nation's electricity.


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