Rudd’s new Climate Change Minister

Tuesday, 02 July, 2013

Mark Butler (formerly Minister for Mental Health) has been named the Climate Change Minister in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s new ministry, replacing Greg Combet who is retiring from politics.

Greg Combet said his reasons for retiring were personal and not attributable to the change in leadership of the Labor Party, although he added that this had provided a catalyst to his decision.

The retiring Climate Change Minster will be most widely recognised for his work introducing a legislated price on carbon.

Greens Senator Milne paid tribute to him, saying he had a genuine commitment to negotiating carbon pricing.

She said that while they totally disagreed on the issue of the generosity of compensation to the coal-fired generators, Combet worked extremely hard with the Greens in negotiating the clean energy legislation.

“He was very professional in the way that we managed that; he is committed to this, and I think it is worth listening to him when he says there is a great deal of complexity in bringing forward carbon pricing,” she said.

There is now speculation that the emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be brought forward under Rudd’s leadership. If this happens, it would mean the end of the fixed price for carbon which, under the existing carbon pricing mechanism, should remain fixed until July 2015. Floating the carbon price could potentially drop the price of carbon considerably because it would be linked to international prices which are now much lower than the current fixed price for carbon in Australia.

Senator Milne said an earlier move to an emissions trading scheme was a “populist pitch to the Australian Industry Group, to the big polluters.”

However, it could reportedly take at least 12 months to set up an ETS.

Greg Combet said: “Setting up an emissions trading scheme is quite a complex thing and that is one of the reasons why we set in place a fixed price period for three years. And, of course, there’s the issue of linking the emissions trading scheme to Europe.

Mark Butler will also take on the environment portfolio replacing Tony Burke who has been moved to the immigration portfolio.

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