THE Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, says the Government's decision to grant extra free carbon trading permits to major polluters is a good thing, despite groups of protesters around the country continuing their campaign against greenhouse gas targets.
"All those firms who pollute will be required to make a contribution to the national effort of reducing our carbon pollution, so nobody gets a free ride," Ms Wong said.
Monday's white paper contrasts with the green paper the Government released for discussion in July in that it contains more free permits, covering 90 per cent of the emissions from the heaviest polluters, and an estimated $4 billion to soften the blow on coal-fired power plants in the first few years of the scheme.
The Government changed its position because of the extra input it has received over the past six months, Ms Wong said.
"Of course, we put the green paper out for consultation. We've had that consultation and we've responded in some areas to the concerns that some in the business community have made," she said. "We've always said we'd do this responsibly, we've always said that we would consult with industry as well as with the community."
The Climate Institute said yesterday that if the additional funds allocated to industry in the white paper were directed instead to a range of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy infrastructure, Australia would be within striking distance of a carbon cut of 25 per cent by 2020.
Ms Wong said the 5 per cent cut to pursue by 2020 remained a "serious" target. "There seem to be some people who think you can achieve a target just by saying it," she said.
Protesters staged sit-ins at the offices of 10 Labor MPs yesterday. They promised an ongoing campaign for deeper greenhouse cuts leading up to UN climate talks in Copenhagen next December.
Annika Dean, one of the women manhandled out of the Prime Minister's National Press Club address on Monday for heckling, took part in another sit-in yesterday at the office of Newcastle Labor MP Sharon Grierson. "I think business has got exactly what it has been campaigning for for the last six months, but I think even the dirtiest industries were not expecting to see a target as low as 5 per cent," Ms Dean said.
Members of a climate change group in Balmain took over the office of MP Tanya Plibersek while wearing goggles and flippers. "What does Kevin Rudd say to all those thousands of people who have walked against warming?" said spokeswoman Jenny Curtis.
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