Catholic groups have reacted with concern and even outrage over the Federal Government's decision to rule out deep cuts to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions before 2020.
Ninesmsn reports that green groups have universally condemned the government's "weak" plan to cut Australia's carbon emissions but big business isn't happy either.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Monday announced a maximum cut of 15 percent by 2020 if the rest of the world signs a climate pact. If no pact is signed, Australia will go with an unconditional five percent cut.
The targets are well below the 25-40 percent cuts that scientists say countries must achieve to avert catastrophic climate change.
The targets are also short of the recommendation made by the government's own climate adviser Professor Ross Garnaut, who proposed cutting emissions by at least 25 percent if the world strikes a strong climate pact.
A day of broken promises: Edmund Rice Centre
In a statement the Edmund Rice Centre said that "the 15 of December, 2008 will go down in Australia's history as a day of broken promises and a dramatic failure of leadership."
"In November 2007, Australians voted against John Howard and his government of climate sceptics. The whole nation was led to believe that with Kevin Rudd there would be a substantive difference in Australia’s approach to climate change.
"It seems that the once again a narrow understanding of the economy has taken priority over humanity and the long term interests of an economy that works for climate justice, and future generations," the ERC statement says.
"These generations will be required to undertake what Australia has neglected to begin to do today, namely to develop a sustainable economy that serves the planet and its people together.
"Australia had a choice. This was an opportunity to make our voice heard as part of a community of nations prepared to make more genuine commitments.
"Instead as a nation we have chosen to follow China, India and the United States, and ignore the voices of people from low lying island nations and highly populated delta nations like Bangladesh."
Maria Tiimon, who comes from the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati and who works for the Edmund Rice Centre’s Pacific Outreach project said she was "disappointed, and shocked. I expected better from Mr Rudd. I thought he was different from John Howard and really behind this issue. I feel betrayed by a leader who promised so much a year ago."
"What will happen to people such as the people from my nation of Kiribati who are displaced? If other countries follow Australia’s lead, the low lying Pacific Islands and other nations like Bangladesh will be affected sooner than is currently predicted. Will Australia be giving out more money for adaptation? Will Australia allow for more displaced people to come here as part of its migration program?"
Emissions plan to cost hospitals $100 million a yea
Catholic Health Australia chief executive Martin Laverty said the emissions trading scheme would cost the nation's health and aged care sector $100 million in its first year alone.
Each hospital bed emits 28 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, or about twice as much as an average household, he said.
Mr Laverty said the scheme should have been accompanied by an assistance package for hospital and aged care providers.
Catholic hospital and aged care services face a bill of $10 million in year one of the Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and the total cost of the carbon trading scheme to the health and aged sector in Australia could top $100 million in the first year alone.
"On average every hospital bed emits 28 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, or about twice as much as an average household," Mr Laverty said.
"We want to see this reduced, and we're looking to partner with Government to achieve these reductions.
"Today's White Paper indicates hospitals will not be required to purchase carbon permits, because they do not directly emit in excess of the Government's chosen limit of 25,000 tonnes per annum. We welcome this commitment.
"Yet the White Paper is ambiguous on the assistance and incentives available to help reduce carbon emissions within not-for-profit hospitals and aged care services," Mr Laverty said.
"The White Paper does not make it clear that not-for-profit hospitals or aged care services will definitely be eligible for these grants," Mr Laverty said.
"Nor has the Government addressed increasing costs that hospitals and aged care services will face as a result of energy and other inputs becoming more expensive.
Package welcome and well targeted: Catholic Social Services Australia
But Catholic Social Services Australia's Executive Director, Frank Quinlan, welcomed the release of the Federal Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme White Paper, saying the focus on a substantial compensation package for low income earners is welcome and well targeted.
Speaking shortly after the Prime Minister launched the paper today, Mr Quinlan said the release of the paper raises a number of questions.
"While the Government's commitment to low income households is to be commended, the report makes no mention of funds that will be urgently needed to educate and mitigate the lasting impact of climate change on low income households," Mr Quinlan said.
"The measures to compensate the incomes of low income households are welcome but we also need to ensure that these households have an opportunity to reduce their energy consumption to protect them from the effects of rising utilities costs for decades to come. The careful implementation of such a mitigation strategy also has the potential to provide low income earners with jobs.
"We must also look to the Harmer review of pensions and the Henry review of the taxation system to ensure this important compensation package is maintained in future.
"In addition, it is difficult to judge whether the funding committed to mitigate the effects of climate change on the community sector itself will be adequate. Substantial modelling will be required to determine how community agencies themselves, often working from older buildings and facilities, can best protect themselves from the effects of climate change.
"There is a desperate need to ensure the Commonwealth Infrastructure Fund is used to invest in infrastructure that will build the capacity of the community and the community sector.
"The Government's National Compact process provides an important opportunity to support the reform of the community sector," Mr Quinlan said.
In a joint submission to the Prime Ministerial Taskforce on Emissions Trading in April 2007 Catholic Social Services Australia called on the Task Group to assess emissions trading models against the equity principles of responsibility, capacity and vulnerability.
Green groups condemn ETS, business wary (Ninemsn, 15/12/08)
Business wary of ETS, green groups angry (Sydney Morning Herald, 15/12/08)
Carbon scheme to cost hospitals $100 million - but no compensation offered (CHA, Media Release, 15/12/08)
CPRS compensation for low income households welcome but more work to do (CSSA, Media Release, 15/12/08)
Five per cent is hope betrayed (Edmund Rice Centre, 15/12/08)
Edmund Rice Centre