THE Coalition has scored a victory on climate change by forcing a series of changes to the renewable energy legislation.
As a result, the Senate last night was scheduled to pass the legislation, which mandates that 20 per cent of electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2020.
The passage of the bill ensures the focus returns to the emissions trading scheme. The Government intends to reintroduce legislation for the scheme by November. If defeated then, it will become a trigger for an early, double dissolution election.
After a fraught few days the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, and his climate change spokesman, Greg Hunt, secured the support of the Coalition party room – the Nationals included – to make a deal that involved a greater level of assistance for heavy polluting industries.
The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, suggested the Government could also have the Senate pass its emissions trading scheme if it were similarly prepared to negotiate.
The Assistant Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, told Parliament that the difficulties of negotiating the relatively simple renewable energy target did not augur well for the battle ahead over the emissions scheme.
''If it is difficult to get unity on the Opposition side of politics over the renewable energy legislation, it is certainly not going to be an easy issue with the [emissions trading scheme],'' he said.
He urged the Coalition to approach the Government with specific amendments addressing its concerns with the scheme, in the areas of agriculture, coalmining and electricity generation.
After the Senate defeated the emissions trading scheme last week, the Government agreed to separate from the legislation the bill for the mandatory renewable energy target.
But it baulked at the full separation and proposed limited interim assistance for a small group of industries, including aluminium, newsprint and silica. Others, including cement and sugar refining, would receive no assistance until the emissions trading scheme was passed.
The key concession won by the Coalition was to have the bills separated entirely and the full level of assistance given to all eligible industries.