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Fed: Climate debate gets underway in Senate

22 Jun 2009 8:45 PM

CANBERRA, June 22 AAP - A marathon debate on emissions trading has started in the Senate - and the government's scheme appears to be in trouble.

No-one except for Labor supports the scheme, and Senators are officially marking their opposition on Monday night.

The Greens have moved to beef up the target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25 to 40 per cent by 2020.

The government's target, which it says it won't change, is a five to 25 per cent cut.

Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne said she could not support a scheme without the tougher target.

"We are now in a global emergency and you wouldn't know it living in Australia," Senator Milne told the Senate.

The government's emissions trading scheme was "an agreement to fail".

Senator Milne said climate change was advancing more quickly than first thought, and the world faced sea level rises, heatwaves and bushfires as a result.

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce took the opposite view - he said emissions trading would harm the economy and was "entirely dangerous".

"We will be flushing our nation's economy down the toilet in the process," Senator Joyce warned.

He said emissions trading was part of a wider pattern towards "a form of communism", by which people were not allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Senator Joyce said climate change was an issue, but it was not a really big one.

The debate on the science of global warming was "changing all the time".

The government wants a vote on the scheme by the end of this week, when parliament breaks for the winter.

There is speculation the opposition will filibuster to avoid having to vote down the scheme.

Senator Joyce did not deny this was the case and drew a parallel between the opposition and the Roman statesman Cato, who used lengthy debates to try and prevent Julius Caesar becoming a tyrant.

The debate is expected to take some time. The Senate is due to wrap up on Thursday evening.