Why wait until 2012? Here’s why, according to the Prime Minister’s Task Group on Emissions Trading:

It will take about four years for Australia to begin full-scale emissions trading. If work were to commence this year, it should be possible to: announce a long-term aspirational goal and to establish an emissions reporting and verification system in 2008; finalise the key design features and establish the legislative basis of the scheme by 2009; establish the first set of short-term caps and allocate permits in 2010; and commence trading in 2011 or, at the latest, 2012. Premature introduction of emissions trading would undermine the stability of the scheme.

There are a large number of important steps required before trading should commence. A comprehensive work programme needs to be clearly articulated to adequately prepare business and the community for the changes required. It should focus both on scheme design, including institutional arrangements, and the rationalisation of complementary policies and programmes. Much work remains to be done.

It should build on the extensive process of consultation undertaken for this report. 

The challenge of addressing climate change through policies of adaptation and mitigation must not be underestimated. It is highly complex. Prudent risk management is hindered to the extent that the dimensions of global warming, and the adverse impact on future generations, remain uncertain.

There are no easy answers. It is clear that there are costs to both action and inaction. Nevertheless, the members of the Task Group have come to a shared conclusion: the adoption of a longer-term emissions constraint and the introduction of an Australian emissions trading scheme offers the least-cost way of reducing the output of greenhouse gases domestically and would make a substantive contribution to a comprehensive solution internationally.

The Task Group believes the key to success is to begin at once, but to proceed with care on the basis of considered and informed decisions.

Read the complete report here.