Amid all the hoo-hah about Julia Gillard’s proposed citizens assembly on climate change and the cash for clunkers scheme, her idea of implementing “tough new emissions standards” for coal-fired power stations has received little scrutiny.

When Labor announced its climate change election policies last month, most media outlets breathlessly reported Gillard’s promise of tougher emissions standards: “Julia Gillard to ban dirty power stations” (The Australian), “Gillard to crack down on coal” (SBS), “Gillard announces coal cackdown” (Sky News).

On Monday night’s Q&A, the PM pushed the policy hard, saying that “we’re going to have national standards so that we don’t ever again see built in this country a dirty coal fired power station”.

The only problem? Labor’s proposed emissions standards don’t exist.

As the party’s policy announcement shows,  Labor’s “best practice” standards would be decided at an unspecified moment in the Gillard government’s second term, following consultation with “stakeholders”.

(These stakeholders are not named, but the big polluters are sure to be among them).

At this stage, Labor can only guarantee that the amount of co2 coal-fired power stations could emit would be lower than 0.86 tonnes per megawatt hour of electricity — that is, lower than the current average emissions intensity of fossil fuel power plants in Australia.