AUSTRALIA'S decision to abandon the carbon tax and unwind efforts to address climate change could trigger a "significant step backwards" for global action, analysts have warned.
After defeating Labor in a landslide election victory on Sept 7, new Prime Minister Tony Abbott, true to his conservative credentials, immediately began undoing the country's climate change policies. Australia is one of the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide per capita, along with Canada and the United States.
Mr Abbott has started work on legislation to repeal the carbon tax - introduced by Labor last year - and has axed the independent Climate Commission, an expert body which provided information on the science of climate change and international efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Mr Abbott also put an end to Labor moves towards an emissions trading scheme linked to Europe's and is abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which was due to invest A$10 billion (S$11.7 billion) in renewable energy projects.
The carbon tax was to have been paid by top polluters, based on the volume of their emissions, with the money going back to households in tax cuts or higher family payments, as well as to helping heavy polluters switch to cleaner energy.
The abandonment of a carbon tax has already buoyed international opponents of trading schemes, particularly in the United States.
A group that promotes the use of fossil fuels, The American Energy Alliance, told the Daily Caller that Mr Abbott's election win was "an instructive lesson for US lawmakers who have yet to understand the economic consequences of a carbon tax".
Analysts say Australia's new direction on climate change is a significant setback for global action, particularly on efforts to achieve a network of emissions trading schemes.
Dr Peter Christoff, from Melbourne University, said Mr Abbott's moves will have a serious impact and will "slow the progress" towards achieving international emissions reduction targets.
China, he said, had been paying close attention to Labor's carbon pricing system, while Australia's moves had allowed it to influence other countries with big resources sectors such as the US, Norway and Russia.
"We are likely to see a weakening of the resolve to reach for a meaningful international target," Dr Christoff told The Straits Times. "There is a danger that Australia will move back to a space where it is either hostile to international negotiations or could play a negative and encumbering role."
In fact, the Abbott government has indicated that it will reconsider whether Australia will co-chair, as scheduled, a United Nations Global Climate Fund meeting in Paris next month.