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Why this is better than Rudd's scheme

There are more than 13 billion reasons why the climate package unveiled on Sunday is better at putting a price on pollution than its predecessor.

For starters, there's $10 billion for renewable energy projects. Unlike the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) proposed by the former Rudd government, this package lays the basis for science-based climate action.

The old scheme locked in weak targets for 15 years which could not be strengthened. There was no money for investment in renewable energy and next to nothing for energy efficiency measures.

Advertisement: Story continues below While we were prepared to try improve the scheme, the government refused to negotiate with the Greens over its contents. This time there's $1.1 billion for households, businesses and community groups to help make energy efficiency upgrades. There's also $1.7 billion to protect biodiversity and carbon farming initiatives.

If it wasn't for the Greens, Australians would still be waiting until 2013 or a proposed community assembly before any action was taken to address dangerous climate change.

Instead, action is happening now. As a result of our increased numbers in the Parliament from the 2010 election, the Greens secured Adam Bandt as the member for Melbourne and also the balance of power in the Senate.

We kept the Gillard government in office and helped create the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee. This committee negotiated in good faith to deliver a package which, while not a Greens-only package, represents an historic chance for Australia to give up its addiction to carbon-intensive industries and transition to a low-carbon future.

A cleaner future means more power stations supplied by solar, wind and geo-thermal sources so we can close dirty coal-burning stations such as Hazelwood in Victoria and Playford B in South Australia. This historic deal means never again will any commercial coal-fired power stations get approved in Australia.

Sadly, despite the rhetoric from some quarters, Australia has not been a world leader in taking action to reduce emissions through pricing carbon.

Other countries such as New Zealand already have such a scheme, while India already taxes its coal. This package allows us to catch up to global efforts, such as those led by the UK government which seeks to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2025.

Australia's 2050 emissions target will be lifted to 80 per cent - a big increase from the 60 per cent under the older scheme. Once this package passes Federal Parliament, it will send a signal to the world that Australia is serious about reducing its share of pollution. In addition to taking local action, Australia can continue working with other countries and the UN toward achieving global co-operation.

Until now, each state and territory has operated separate schemes that encourage households to use renewable energy such as by installing solar panels. The multiparty committee agreed to create the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. This will for the first time create a systemic, whole-of-government approach to renewable energy, from R&D to roll-out and planning, at arm's length from the government.

There will also be an independent Climate Change Authority which will recommend targets and caps for when the scheme moves to flexible pricing. The Climate Change Authority will "have regard to" the government's targets alongside the latest science and global emissions budgets in recommending Australia's annual budget.

There's plenty of work involved in explaining the climate package to the public between now and when it's due to take effect in under a year. People will make their views known to parliament before the package is voted on.

I'll be working hard with my Greens colleagues in the Federal parliament, as well as the states and territories and local government, to ensure the public hear the facts and not the usual scaremongering from the Opposition.

There was bipartisan support to take action at the federal election in 2007. Four years later, the Greens are instrumental in helping guide that change.

First pubished in The National Times on July 12, 2011.

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