Parliament approves carbon tax

The lower house of parliament today passed a new tax on carbon pollution to fight climate change.

Carbon tax will mean that the country’s biggest carbon emitters will have to pay for pollution from July 1, 2012, initially at a fixed price before moving to a market-based trading scheme.

“Today is a significant day for Australians and the Australians of the future who want to see a better environment,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said ahead of the vote.

Australia is one of the world’s worst per capita polluters. The country is also a key exporter of coal and has long struggled to combat climate change. Conservative opposition is against the bill and argues it will be ineffective, impact jobs and increase the cost of living.

Government ministers embraced and clapped following the vote, which has to go to the upper house Senate for final approval.

The approval of carbon tax brings to end years of debate over this controversial issue.