British firms cry foul over Australia's carbon tax

FTSE 100 giants Rio Tinto and International Power have added their voices to the debate about Australia's plans for a carbon tax.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's proposals to levy A$23 (£15) per tonne of carbon dioxide, moving to a market-based trading system from 2015, have been met with squeals of protest from across the business community, despite assurances of credits and subsidies for the top 500 polluters in the early years of the scheme.

Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining group, weighed in to the controversy yesterday, expressing "disappointment" at the proposal and warning it will "inevitably hinder investment and jobs growth with reducing carbon emissions".

The company's managing director in Australia, David Peever, called it "an unfair tax on Australian exporters". "We have to be careful about imposing policy experiments on the Australian economy," he said. "Australia's minerals sector now faces significant additional costs not faced by competitors."

International Power was more measured in its response. The company noted that with 5 per cent of its global generating capacity from coal-fired sites in Australia, the proposals would be "important" to its business. But it said the impact would not be "material" to the company as a whole.

Ms Gillard's plans, launched earlier this month, aim to address Australia's record as the highest per capita carbon emitter in the world, belching out 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions for its 22 million people, compared with Britain's 1.7 per cent for nearly three times the population.