Climate change breakthrough!

Durban Sea Front
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The world is on track for a comprehensive global treaty on climate change for the first time after agreement was reached at talks in Durban, South Africa in the early hours of Sunday morning. The Guardian reports |!/LearnFromNature

Negotiators agreed to start work on a new climate deal that would have legal force and, crucially, require both developed and developing countries to cut their carbon emissions. The terms now need to be agreed by 2015 and come into effect from 2020.

Why Durban is different ?

“I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose – a long-term solution to climate change,” said Christiana Figueres, theUnited Nations climate chief.

Chris Huhne, the UK’s energy and climate secretary, said the deal would ensure the European Union’s efforts to tackle global warming were matched by others. “We know that we are working very hard on this, but we need to be sure that other countries are working just as hard – that’s very important for our industry and our competitiveness,” he said.

But Huhne also acknowledged that the hard work was only beginning, because following the agreement struck in Durban, governments face four gruelling years of horse-trading over how far and how fast each country should cut its carbon, in order to flesh out the bones of the deal.

Two weeks of talks — the last 60 hours of which was a single marathon negotiating session, with officials holed up in a conference centre through three nights with scarcely a break — ended with a surprise decision struck during a tea break just before dawn on Sunday.

A small huddle of key ministers were ordered to meet for 20 minutes and thrash out their differences. With tempers rising and the talks minutes from being abandoned, the chair, South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, ordered China, India, the US, Britain, France, Sweden, Gambia, Brazil and Poland to meet in a small group or “huddle”. Surrounded by nearly 100 delegates on the floor of the hall, they talked quietly among themselves to try to reach a new form of words acceptable to all.

The agreement – dubbed the “Durban platform” – is different from the other partial deals that have been struck during the past two decades, with developing countries, including China, the world’s biggest emitter, agreeing to be legally bound to curb their greenhouse gases. Previously, poorer nations have insisted that they should not bear any legal obligations for tackling climate change, whereas rich nations – which over more than a century have produced most of the carbon currently in the atmosphere – should.

Another first is that the US, the second biggest emitter, also agreed that the new pact would have “legal force” – a step it flirted with in 1997 with the Kyoto protocol, but abandoned as Congress made clear it would never ratify that agreement.

All of the world’s biggest economies and emitters already have targets to cut emissions between now and 2020, when the new deal would come into force.

But those targets are voluntary, not legally binding. This is a crucial difference for the EU and many others, who fear that voluntary targets are too easy to wriggle out of.

However, the deal did little to address the scale of emissions cuts needed, and environmental groups said this was a huge failing.

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: “Governments have salvaged a path forward for negotiations, but we must be under no illusion — the outcome of Durban leaves us with the prospect of being legally bound to a world of 4C warming. This would be catastrophic for people and the natural world. Governments have spent crucial days focused on a handful of specific words in the negotiating text, but have paid little heed to repeated warnings from the scientific community that much stronger, urgent action is needed to cut emissions.”

Lord Stern, former World Bank chief economist and author of the landmark 2006 review of the economics of climate change, said: “The outcome of the summit is a modest but significant step forward. The decision to move towards a unified system, with all countries having some form of legal commitments, removes an important obstacle and could allow, for example, the US to play a more participative and constructive role in the future.”

The agreement reached also ensured that developing countries will soon begin to gain access to billions of pounds in finance from the rich world to help them move to a green economy and cope with the effects of climate change.

Source :

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Climate change : Hard-up UK puts issue on back burner

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Report finds Britons more concerned with keeping warm than worrying about the environment. The Independent reports

Britain’s carbon emissions grew faster than the economy last year for the first time since 1996, as a cash-strapped population relegated the environment down its league of concerns and spent more money keeping warm, according to a new report.

The rise in Britain’s so-called carbon intensity increases the danger that the country will miss legally binding targets on reducing emissions, warns PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the consultancy behind the report.

Furthermore, it found that Britain’s rising carbon intensity is part of a worldwide trend which threatens to push global warming above a two-degree Celsius increase on pre-industrial levels.

This is the temperature that the G8 group of leading economies has pledged not to breach in the hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

Leo Johnson, partner for sustainability and climate change at PwC, said: “Our analysis points unambiguously towards one conclusion, that we are at the limits of what is achievable in terms of carbon reduction.

“The G20 economies have moved from travelling too slowly in the right direction to travelling in the wrong direction. The results call into question the likelihood of global decarbonisation ever happening rapidly enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius,” Mr Johnson added.

Experts calculate that limiting global warming to 2 degrees would require a 4.8 per cent decrease in carbon intensity every year until 2050 – meaning that emissions need to grow by 4.8 per cent less than the economy every year over that period.

However, global emissions jumped by 5.8 per cent in 2010, while gross domestic product (GDP) increased by just 5.1 per cent in 2010 – resulting in a 0.6 per cent rise in carbon intensity.

The UK recorded the third highest increase in carbon intensity among the G20 group of leading economies last year, as hard-up consumers and companies increasingly dropped green considerations in the pursuit of the cheapest, short-term option. Furthermore, the year was sandwiched between two bitterly cold winters, leaving people with no option but to turn up their heating.

Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability and climate change at PwC, said: “When money is tight people’s attention goes elsewhere and it becomes harder to implement high-cost, low-carbon technologies.

“Many people have higher priorities than climate change right now, it is probably fair to say. Maybe people are taking their eye off the ball a bit.”

Britain’s GDP increased by just 1.3 per cent in 2010, while its carbon emissions jumped 3.5 per cent, resulting in a 2.2 per cent rise in so-called carbon intensity.

If Britain wants to hit its legally binding target of reducing emissions by 34 per cent, on 1990 levels, by 2020, it will need to cut its carbon intensity by 5.6 per cent every year, PwC said.

Most of the other countries that recorded the biggest rise in carbon intensity were from the developing world. Fast-growing countries such as China, Brazil and Korea were among those economies contributing to what Mr Grant calls a “dirty” recovery.

Brazil’s growth was the dirtiest among the G20 economies last year, with a 3.5 per cent jump in carbon intensity, with Saudi Arabia second from bottom with a 3.2 per cent increase.

At the other end of the scale, Australia recorded a 10.9 per cent decline.

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Climate change : Little time left to halt warming

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From The Independent

A lack of international will means the chances of bringing climate change under control may already be “slipping out of reach”, scientists have warned.


A study by the Swiss science university ETH Zurich shows that without an early and steep cut in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures are not “likely” to remain less than 2C higher than pre-industrial levels. The 2C target, which experts say is needed to avert dangerous climate change, was agreed by the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

But countries that signed up to the Copenhagen Accord have yet to commit to measures far-reaching enough to meet it, according to experts.

A voluntary agreement hammered out in the dying hours of last December’s UN climate talks in the Danish capital is said to fall well short of the cuts required.

The new report, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, sounds a further loud warning that time is running out. It suggests that for a “likely” chance (more than 66%) of holding warming below 2C by the end of this century, emissions must peak before 2020.

Emission levels will also have to drop drastically to around 44 billion tonnes in 2020, and then keep falling. By 2050, they will need to be well below 1990 levels at around 20 billion tonnes, says the research.

This is an ambitious goal. Last year’s emission levels were estimated to be 48 billion tonnes. If no action is taken to reduce global emissions, experts fear they could grow to 56 billion tonnes in 2020.

Authors of the new study, led by Dr Joeri Rogeli, from the Swiss science university ETH Zurich, wrote: “Without a firm commitment to put in place the mechanisms to enable an early global emissions peak followed by steep reductions thereafter, there are significant risks that the 2C target, endorsed by so many nations, is already slipping out of reach.”

The scientists base their conclusions on a comprehensive risk analysis of emission scenarios.

The research takes into account results from a number of previous integrated assessment models on climate change. These incorporate data from a range of different disciplines and are designed to inform policy.

Three pathways were identified that could result in a “very likely”, or more than 90%, chance of not exceeding the 2C threshold.

All involved a peak during this decade, high post-peak reduction rates, net negative emissions, and heavy use of renewable energy sources and carbon capture technology.

Scenarios showing peak emissions around 2030 were likely to keep warming below 3C, but would miss the 2C target. Another study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the 2C threshold could be crossed between 2040 and 2060. This is well within the lifetime of many people alive today.

The research examines the idea of looking at climate change projections from a different angle, shifting the emphasis from “what” to “when”.

Lead author Dr Manoj Joshi, from the University of Reading, said: “It is not just about avoiding potentially dangerous climate change, but also about buying time for adaptation.

“This approach to communicating the impacts and uncertainties of climate change draws attention to rates of change rather than just the change itself. It complements existing methods, and should be employed more widely.”

Climate change : Journal editor resigns over ‘flawed’ paper co-authored by sceptic

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From The Independent The editor-in-chief of a climate science journal has resigned in response to an academic controversy triggered by his publication of a paper co-authored by a leading climate sceptic.

Prof Wolfgang Wagner wrote in an editorial published on Friday in Remote Sensing that he felt obliged to resign because it was now apparent to him that a paper entitled On the misdiagnosis of surface temperature feedbacks from variations in Earth’s radiant energy balanceby Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, was “fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal”. Spencer has frequently appeared in the rightwing media in the US criticising “climate alarmism” and is the author of a book called The Great Global Warming Blunder.

Paper :

Wagner, who is the head of the Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing at the Vienna University of Technology, added he “would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements”.

Wagner specifically referred to headlines such as “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism” on the Forbes magazine website and “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” on, which both attracted considerable attention online.

The paper in question – which, Wagner says, was downloaded 56,000 times within one month after its publication in July, as a result of the attention it attracted – purported to show how the Earth’s atmosphere is more efficient at releasing energy into space than is programmed into the computer models used to forecast climate change.

“Satellites show energy being lost while climate models show energy still being gained,” Spencer said at the time of publication. The University of Alabama, where Spencer works as a principal research scientist at the Earth System Science Center, added in a press release in July: “The natural ebb and flow of clouds, solar radiation, heat rising from the oceans and a myriad of other factors added to the different time lags in which they impact the atmosphere might make it impossible to isolate or accurately identify which piece of Earth’s changing climate is feedback from man-made greenhouse gases.”

But Wagner says he now accepts the subsequent criticism from other climate scientists that the peer-review process used to test the paper’s findings was flawed. “As the case presents itself now, the [peer review] editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors … The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some extend also in the literature, a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers. In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal.”

Spencer is no stranger to academic controversies. He has long maintained that satellite observations showed that atmospheric temperatures were cooling rather than warming until it was shown that the satellites in question suffered from “orbital drift”.

John Abraham, an associate professor at the University of St Thomas’s school of engineering in Minnesota who criticised the Spencer paper upon its publication, told the Guardian: “It is remarkable that an editor-in-chief has stepped down from his role at a journal because of the publication of a flawed paper. This significant event reflects on the significance of the flaws in the paper and its review process. It is commendable that Wagner has reacted responsibly to the situation.”

He continued: “Spencer and his colleagues have a long history of minimising the effects of human-caused climate change; they also have a long history of making serious technical errors. This latest paper is only one in a decade-long track record of errors that have forced Spencer to revise his work as the errors are brought to light. Spencer is well known in the scientific community for publishing high-profile papers that initially dispute global warming and only later are found to be faulty.

“This latest article reportedly showed that the climate is not as sensitive to increases in greenhouse gases. It also called into question the cause-and-effect relationship between clouds and climate change. Wolfgang’s resignation was based on the quality of the review the paper received and the obvious technical errors which the paper contained.”

Next week, Prof Andrew Dessler of the department of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, is due to publish a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters offering a detailed peer-reviewed rebuttal of Spencer’s paper.

Spencer responded to the resignation via his blog. He said: “I want to state that I firmly stand behind everything that was written in that paper … It appears the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] gatekeepers have once again put pressure on a journal for daring to publish anything that might hurt the IPCC’s politically immovable position that climate change is almost entirely human-caused. I can see no other explanation for an editor resigning in such a situation.”

Climate change update : The changing face of Andean glaciers

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Simeon Tegel comments in The Independent

The IdendeTo the untrained eye, the view from the Yanapaqcha glacier, some 17,000ft above sea level in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, represents nature at her most sublime. Sheer, snowcapped peaks stretch to the horizon while, through the clouds below, fertile ravines drain into perfect turquoise lakes.

But as our crampons crunch into the hard ice, it quickly becomes apparent that not all is well in this spectacular wilderness. “The glacier looks like a patient dying of a virus,” says Richard Hidalgo, arguably Peru’s foremost mountaineer. “The disease is eating it away from the inside.” Climate change is tightening its grip.

The statistics for glacier retreat in the Cordillera Blanca – or White Range, as this stretch of the Andes is known – are well documented: The average annual figure per glacier was seven meters in the 1970s, 20 meters in the 1980s, 24 meters in the 1990s and 25 meters in the 2000s. But, as Richard explains, the ravaging of the glaciers is about far more than shrinking snouts.

As we tour Yanapaqcha, his concern becomes palpable. A huge expanse of the lower part of the glacier is riddled with dark stains, slushy puddles, ponds that freeze every evening only to thaw out again each afternoon, and enormous sinkholes. Long sections of Yanapaqcha appear as concave hollows as the river of ice beneath the compressed snow gradually melts and buckles.

“These current conditions are scarier. You have to be even more careful,” says Richard, acknowledging how mountaineering, one of the world’s more dangerous sports, just became riskier still. He should know. An internationally-certified guide, Richard, 42, is headed this month to Nepal to tackle Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest peak and the third of the 14 mountains over 8,000 meters that he will have summitted.

Indeed, last year a colleague and climbing partner of Richard’s, the experienced American guide Tyler Anderson, died just a few hundred feet above where we are standing – the first mountaineer, Richard believes, to perish in the Cordillera Blanca as a result of climate change. It is notable that the accident happened as Anderson was guiding clients up a mountain that he knew well and was, for a climber of his abilities, little more than an energetic stroll.

No one knows for sure but Anderson, 37, appears to have succumbed as a huge area of the glacier around a crevasse spontaneously collapsed. He fell 60ft and suffered massive injuries including a broken neck.  “That crevasse was not normal,” says Richard, who participated in the recovery of his friend’s body. “There was a labyrinth of holes within the glacier. I have never seen anything like that before.”

Yet the dangers of the Cordillera Blanca’s shifting landscape potentially affect far more than the climbing community. As they melt, glaciers lose their traction with the mountainside, increasing the risk of massive, unnatural avalanches. Meanwhile, the increasing run-off is forming vast alpine lakes in danger of catastrophically bursting their banks high above towns and villages along the valley floor. The risk is heightened by the possibility of an avalanche or rock-fall into the lakes. It bears remembering that the region is highly seismic.

One lake, Palcacocha, threatens the regional capital of Huaraz, with a population of 120,000. Its current volume of 17 million cubic meters is 34 times greater than in the 1970s and officials have since 2009 continuously categorized Palcacocha as being at “high risk” of overflowing. That threat arouses powerful emotions in a region that still vividly recalls how a 1970 quake triggered a massive slide of rocks and ice that wiped out the town of Yungay, killing a mind-boggling 25,000 people.

As we slowly move upwards, the glacier appears to recover. Eventually, most of its surface is a uniform expanse of white, broken only by the barely visible long, thin crevasses that occur normally as Yanapaqcha inches its way down the mountain. But even here, there appear occasional, incongruous sinkholes randomly scattered around the glacier.

Above us rises the imposing granite face of the southern peak of Huascaran, Peru’s highest summit at 22,205ft. But again, things are not as they seem. Richard notes how, just three years ago, the face was almost entirely covered by deep snow and ice. Climate change has now made this steep wall too slippery for snow to accumulate.

The shifts in the landscape are now coming so quickly that Richard sees them from one season to another. “I cannot even imagine how the Cordillera Blanca will be in 10 years time,” he says. Although Huascaran’s two summits and the vast col between them, at 20,000ft, remain blanketed, scientists believe that the mountain may be snow-free by mid-century. If that happens, then the White Range will suffer the final indignity of its name becoming nothing more than an antiquated misnomer.

1. Pucaranracocha glacier, in the Cordillera Blanca, in 2009. The glacier has retreated hundreds of meters already. Credit: Alton C. Byers, The Mountain Institute

2. Pucaranracocha glacier, in the Cordillera Blanca, in 1932. Credit: Erwin Schneider, courtesy of the Association for Comparative Alpine Research, Munich

3. Richard Hidalgo inspects the melting snout of Yanapaqcha glacier, in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. Credit: Simeon Tegel

4. A huge sinkhole. Credit: Simeon Tegel

5. A collapsed section of the glacier. Credit: Simeon Tegel

6. Will this stunning view become a thing of the past? Credit: Richard Hidalgo

7. Holes ravage the lower part of the glacier. Credit: Simeon Tegel

Climate update : Is climate change to blame for famine in the Horn of Africa?

It’s impossible, says Duncan Green of The Guardian, to answer with a simple yes or no – but here’s a summary of what we think we know so far

So is famine in the Horn of Africa linked to climate change or not? The question arises whenever “extreme weather events” – hurricanes, floods, droughts – hit our TV screens. It’s impossible to answer with a simple yes or no – but here’s what we think we know so far.


The current drought conditions have been caused by successive seasons with very low rainfall. Over the past year, the eastern Horn of Africa has experienced two consecutive failed rainy seasons. According to surveys of local communities, this is part of a long-term shift. Borana communities in Ethiopia report that whereas droughts were recorded every six to eight years in the past, they now occur every one to two years.

Meteorological data back up the picture on temperatures: mean annual temperatures increased from 1960-2006 by 1C in Kenya and 1.3C in Ethiopia, and the frequency of hot days is increasing in both countries. Rainfall trends are less clear: according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, there are no statistically significant trends in rainfall. However, more recent research suggests that rainfall decreased from 1980 to 2009 during the “long-rains” (March to June).

The historical record does not “prove” that the current drought is directly attributable to climate change. True, there are now a few cases in which scientists have been able to estimate the extent to which man-made climate change has made a particular extreme weather event more likely, but these exercises require reliable long-term weather data that only exists for Europe and North America – no such studies as yet exist in the case of the current drought.

What about the future? Globally, climate change modelling projects an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like droughts and floods. In the absence of urgent action to slash global greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in the region will probably increase by 3C-4C by 2080-99 relative to 1980-99.

But again, rainfall projections are unclear. Most modelling, as reflected in the IPCC’s last assessment, suggests more rain will fall in the east Africa region as a whole, with an increase in “heavy events” (sudden downpours, so more flood risk). However, some recent studies suggest rainfall will decrease, particularly in the long rains.

The combination of higher temperatures and more unpredictable rains is alarming for food production. One recent estimate published by the Royal Society suggests much of east Africa could suffer a decline in the length of the growing period for key crops of up to 20% by the end of the century, with the productivity of beans falling by nearly 50%.

The conclusion? Attributing the current drought directly to climate change is impossible, but in the words of Sir John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, in a talk at Oxfam last week, “worldwide, events like this have a higher probability of occurring as a result of climate change”. Moreover, unless something is done, the current suffering offers a grim foretaste of the future – temperatures in east Africa are going to rise and rainfall patterns will change, making a bad situation worse.

What to do? First, remember that while the drought is caused by lack of rainfall, famine is man-made. As the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen famously observed, famines do not occur in functioning democracies. The difference between the minor disruption of hosepipe bans and the misery in the Horn is down to a failure of politics and leadership. It is no accident that the communities worst affected by the drought are not just those blighted by conflict but also by decades of official neglect and contempt from governments, which see pastoralism as an unwanted relic of the past.

Second, the famine shows the extreme vulnerability of poor people to weather events like failed rains. Governments and the international community have to save lives now, but also act to reduce that chronic vulnerability, building local ability to manage the drought cycle, improving the flow of data, information and ideas for adapting to climate change, and drastically increasing long-term investment in smallholder agriculture and pastoralism, which have shown they can provide a decent life for millions of east Africans, provided they are supported (rather than ignored) by governments.

Beyond helping east Africa and other vulnerable regions adapt to impending climate change, it is of course also incumbent on the rich and emerging economies to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause it. Fail to do that, and all attempts at adaptation are likely to offer only temporary relief.

• Oxfam last week published a briefing on climate change and drought in east Africa

Australian fossil fuels : Gillard puts future on the line with radical plan for carbon tax

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The Australian government has unveiled one of the world’s most ambitious schemes to tackle climate change, a plan to tax carbon emissions from the country’s worst polluters. The Guardian reports

After a bruising political battle to win support for the measure, the prime minister, Julia Gillard, said on that from July next year, 500 companies would pay $23 (£15) a tonne for their carbon emissions in the largest emissions trading scheme outside Europe.

The government predicts that by 2029 the plan will lead to a reduction in emissions equivalent to taking 45m cars off the road. The government will fix the tax for three years, before moving to a market-set price in 2015.

“It’s time to get on with this; we are going to get this done,” said Gillard.

Australia generates more carbon pollution per head than any other developed country, thanks to its heavy reliance on coal-fired power stations. With a population of 22 million, Australia is responsible for 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By comparison, Britain, with nearly three times the population, produces just 1.7%.

The package is expected to pass votes in both houses of parliament before the end of the year, but Gillard faces a furious backlash over the scheme, which 60% of the population opposes. Her government is the most unpopular in 40 years, and analysts say her political future depends on her ability to sell the tax to voters.

“We’ve got to price carbon pollution to drive investment in innovation and to provide the incentive for energy efficiency,” she said. “Failing to do so means that we would be passing on lower living standards to our children and grandchildren.”

The scheme provides for a $10bn clean energy fund, money for a biodiversity fund, and – crucially for Gillard’s political survival – compensation for voters.

The average Australian household will see its bills increase by around $10 a week, and critics of the plan say ordinary voters will be unfairly burdened by higher costs passed on to them by the big polluters.

But Gillard said 50% of the scheme’s revenue would be returned to households in the form of tax cuts and compensation worth more than $15bn. Two-thirds of all households would receive enough assistance to cover the entire financial impact of the tax, Gillard said.

“This is pitched at low-income families because we know their budgets are tight,” she said. “I want people to understand that we are seizing a clean energy future.”

Before last year’s election Gillard explicitly ruled out a carbon tax, in an attempt to distance herself from her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, who failed to get an emissions trading scheme through parliament. But she changed tack after the election returned a hung parliament and she had to build an alliance with the Green party.

The leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, has denounced the tax as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism” and called for an election which he said would be a referendum on the scheme.

“It’s a package which is all economic pain for no environmental gain,” he said on Sunday.

Australia’s parliament has twice rejected attempts to introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme. A high-profile campaign against the tax could further undermine the government, which faces elections in 2013.

“I think this package is going to compound the trust issue which has dogged the prime minster ever since she assassinated Kevin Rudd and has dogged her since she was deceptive about the carbon tax before the last election,” said Abbott.

Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal and iron ore, and its powerful resources sector is the bedrock of the buoyant economy.

The tax package includes compensation for many trade-exposed industries, including steel and aluminium, with up to 94.5% of their permits granted for free. Moderate emitting exporters will get 66% of permits for free.

But the Minerals Council of Australia says the resources sector will suffer a $25bn hit by 2020, with around 20,000 job losses.

“This is taking a baseball bat to the Australian economy to raise another tax which will be a dead loss to the economy without any benefit to the environment,” said the council’s chief executive, Mitch Hooke.

The Greens have been central in months of negotiations over the tax. Gillard relies on them to govern and, as of last week, they also control the balance of power in the upper house.

The Greens’ deputy leader, Christine Milne, said: “This is the moment where Australia turns its back on the fossil fuel age, and turns its face towards the greatest challenge of the 21st century, and that is addressing global warming.”