I can’t let this pass without comment: Australian lawmakers just laid down a new marker in responsible climate policy. Starting next year, Australia will levy a carbon tax of about $23 per ton for the country’s largest polluters. By 2015, the carbon tax will transform into a market-based emissions trading program.

As the Guardian points out:

The laws will see Australia join the European Union and New Zealand with national emissions trading schemes. California’s starts in 2013, while China and South Korea are working on carbon trading programmes. India has a coal tax, while South Africa plans to place carbon caps on its top polluters.

And that’s not the half of it. The northeast US states continue to operate a modest but effective cap-and-trade program, while British Columbia’s carbon tax remains a model carbon policy that will soon be enhanced by the province’s participation in the cap-and-trade system of the Western Climate Initiative.

There are three points worth making quickly:

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    1. Australia’s decision is exceptionally good news, and proof that global progress on climate is continuing. For reasons I won’t get into now, the policy isn’t perfect—but it’s darn good nonetheless.
    2. It’s a reasonably good analogy for Canada and the United States. Australia, too, has been dragging its feet on climate policy. And just as in North America that’s in part because Australia has had relatively conservative government and in part because per capita emissions are very high.
    3. [Inside baseball warning] Australia offers more proof that carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs are not mutually exclusive, despite what some zealots would have you believe. In fact, they can be nicely complementary.

    There’s good coverage at 350.org too.