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Kyoto, Australia and honesty

By Arthur Thomas - posted Monday, 17 March 2008

Climate change cannot be ignored and developing the technologies and attitude to reduce and eventually reverse the trends are crucial for our future. Ross Garnaut's Interim Report suggested cuts and timeframes necessary to reduce the impact of climate change on Australia. The Rudd Government considered the 90 per cent cuts extreme and additional advice is being sought. Seeking additional advice is one thing, but there is no silver bullet for reducing the effects of climate change since it can only be confronted by a global co-operation where total emissions are addressed.

Rudd's forthcoming visit to China

Mr Rudd and Mr Garrett have been "informing" us that once Australia has a "seat at the table," Australia becomes a key player in the fight against global warming and the leader in innovative green technologies that will play a critical part in greenhouse gas reduction in the future.

Green house gas emission reduction is crucial in a future in which the OECD Environmental Outlook foresees a doubling of world GPD by 2030. The clear link between such GDP growth, energy production and greenhouse gas emissions cannot be ignored.


As from March 11, Australia is now part of Kyoto and has that "seat at the table" and at the end of March, Mr Rudd will depart for a 16-day tour of three regions considered vital to Australia's military and economic future: the US, Europe and China. Kyoto, is definitely on his agenda.

Garnaut interim climate change report findings

Much was made of Garnaut's Interim Report and its 90 per cent emission cuts, models and varied input, but very little was made of putting that into context. Section 3 of the report quietly said it all: "The extent of Australia’s own commitments to mitigation would depend on progress towards effective global mitigation."

In other words, Garnaut's tough targets must be implemented in conjunction with a global mitigation program, not a unilateral commitment by Australia alone. Without global mitigation, implementing these cuts will have no effect on the impact of global warming on Australia.

Mr Rudd was fully aware of the implications when he asked Ross Garnaut to "report on targets that would lower Australian emissions without harming economic growth." Rudd back flipped when he was forced to embrace John Howard's line "We can't have a situation where Australian industry is bound to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but competitive countries like China are not bound".


Kyoto requires Australia to limit growth in greenhouse-gas emissions to an 8 per cent increase above 1990 levels for the 2008-2012 period. The 1990 date represents a period of growth so far below our current economic growth as to be impractical. The same applies to China. Before that happens, Kyoto MK II needs to see the light of day recognising the real problems and confronting 2008 and beyond with relevant and effective solutions.

Mr Rudd perceives climate change as "... the moral challenge of our generation ..." OECD members and developing nations lauded Mr Rudd when committing Australia to Kyoto. It was inferred that Australia was now on an equal footing with the OECD and trading partners and can now take a lead role in curbing climate change.


And that raises two interesting questions.

Just how important is Australia when it comes to the world economy? And just what is this persuasive “diplomatic approach" of Mr Rudd's to convince China to cut its emissions? Mr Rudd won’t get a “yes” from China without a “yes” from India and other developing nations. To wield such proclaimed influence, Australia must be seen to be a vital part in the global economy, not just a raw material supplier.

We are constantly reminded by Mr Garrett and interest groups, both endorsed by Mr Rudd, that Australia is the No4 major global emitter and as a responsible global citizen must act to reduce the impact of climate change.

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About the Author

Arthur Thomas is retired. He has extensive experience in the old Soviet, the new Russia, China, Central Asia and South East Asia.

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