Political ruckus a lawyer's win
News | 13 August 2009 | Kate Gibbs
The Government wants the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to be part of its armoury in fighting global warming.
THE Government wants the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to be part of its armoury in fighting global warming.
But as the bill, and the long-delayed debate in the Senate, causes a lot of hot air and fireworks in politics and the media, the country's lawyers are preparing for the inevitable changes to their environment practices.
The Government had wanted a debate on the emissions trading scheme this week, but the Coalition has repeatedly said it only wants to vote on it after the December Copenhagen talks.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says the Liberal Party has combined with other crossbenchers to ensure that this bill is delayed.
She said of the political options remaining: "A range of other legislation will be discussed. if there is time clearly the Government wants to debate this bill, but it is clear from the motion that is being passed today that will be difficult to find the time to do that."
But as the political sphere debates and ponders, lawyers specialising in the area are left with little work - their clients waiting for some legislative confirmations before they seek expensive legal advice.
Instead, lawyers in environment practices are preparing for the various repercussions of the options and alternatives being mooted in politics.
DLA Phillips Fox partner Charmain Barton said her environment practice is not getting as many instructions on the compliance aspects around the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as it did before the legisative uncertainty.
"Since it's been to the Senate and put off to another date for a vote, most clients are putting their inquiries on hold," she said.
But things won't always be that way, Barton said. "My view is that there will be some form of regulation around carbon in the future. So whether it is a carbon tax or some other form of emission trading scheme, either before or after Copenhagen, we'll see something," she said.
"So in that respect there will not be any particular change to a climate change practice. I see the climate change practice moving more in to a renewable energy type practice.
"I suppose there is likely to be more of a push for renewable type energies as a result, not only of some form of emissions trading scheme, but also the renewable energy target at the Commonwealth level," Barton said.
Barton said she see a future change of focus for environment lawyers. "In the long term there will be a compliance aspect around some form of carbon tax or emissions trading scheme and the renewable energy sector," she said.
Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull this week released what he called a greener, cheaper way to cut greenhouse gases. But Penny Wong labelled the opposition's plan a "mongrel", saying it would distract from the opposition's leadership woes on climate change.
Wong added that the government was determined to pass its ETS, even if it has to happen "the hard way", suggesting a double dissolution and consequent election. If the ETS is knocked back twice, the government can call an early election.
Turnbull talked up his new proposal, saying it would save the government $49 billion as well as allow the country to make a deeper cut in emissions.
Frontier Economics, which modelled the scheme for the opposition and independent senator Nick Xenophon, said it would cost the economy 40 per cent less than the government's scheme.