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Feb 7, 2011

Garnaut to Australia: at least try to keep up

Australia is one of the world's top three drags on climate change action, according to the Gillard Government’s climate advisor Ross Garnaut. Inaction by Australia is to "exercise a veto over effective global mitigation", reports Matthew Knott.

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Australia should stop using China as a scapegoat for climate change inaction and recognise that it is one of the the world’s three biggest drags on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Gillard Government’s top climate advisor Ross Garnaut.

Speaking in Sydney yesterday to launch his second Climate Change Review update paper, Professor Garnaut said that, rather than moving ahead of the rest of the world, Australia is matched only by the US and Canada as a climate change laggard.

“Australia has been a significant drag on other countries’ mitigation efforts,” Professor Garnaut said. “Stopping being a drag is a big step forward for us.”

On the ABC’s Lateline last night, Labor Minister Anthony Albanese said he rejected Garnaut’s assessment that Australia was a laggard.

“I don’t think it’s a reasonable comment,” he said. “I think that Australia, certainly under this government, has taken climate change seriously. We’re determined to act on it. And that contrasts with the inaction and denial of the Howard government, who pretended that it didn’t exist.”

China, the world’s largest emitter, is often cast as a leading climate villain because it builds a new coal-fired power station every 10 days.

But Professor Garnaut singled out the rising superpower for praise yesterday, saying that China had voluntarily committed itself to stronger than expected emissions reductions targets.

In his 2008 review Garnaut said that a 35% reduction in China’s emissions intensity by 2020 would be a fair contribution to international action.

Yet China’s leaders have committed to 45% reduction by 2020 — a figure they have hinted could go higher if developed countries take strong action.

China has invested heavily in rooftop solar panels, electric cars, wind energy, new train lines and nuclear power as part of its stimulus package, Professor Garnaut said.

Professor Garnaut urged Australians not to underestimate their nation’s influence on overseas efforts to tackle climate change despite our relatively small population and low overall contribution to global emissions (less than 2%).

He said the rest of the world looks to Australia for leadership because of our highest per capita emitter ranking, reputation for effective economic reforms and the fact we are more vulnerable than most to the risks posed by global warming.

“Australian success in introducing a carbon price is likely to assist the United States and Canada to maintain momentum in policies to reduce emissions,” he said.

“We, and other developed countries, can through inaction exercise a veto over effective global mitigation.”

When asked whether it is appropriate for the Australian Government to base its greenhouse reduction targets on the outcome of international negotiations (with a 5 per cent target rising to 25 per cent if an ambitious deal is signed), Professor Garnaut said merely keeping up with the rest of the world would be significant progress for Australia.

While the economic risks of moving away from coal are often discussed, Professor Garnaut said the potential opportunities for Australia to prosper in a low carbon economy are too often overlooked.

He said Australia has “exceptional advantages” in its plentiful reserves of uranium, geothermal energy, natural gas and solar power — all likely to be key players in a carbon-constrained future. China has invested heavily in rooftop solar panels, electric cars, wind energy and nuclear power as part of its stimulus package, Professor Garnaut said. And despite Barack Obama’s failure to legislate an emissions trading scheme — “the US is far from sitting still”.

The Environmental Protection Agency is using regulatory pressure to close the dirtiest coal-fired power stations, leading to an increased use of gas for power generation.

While noting the much-hyped Copenhagen Climate Summit was a “diplomatic fiasco”, Professor Garnaut said that a binding global treaty was still needed to keep global warming under two degrees.

Without a deal, he said the famous “prisoner’s dilemma” — why should a country take action when it will allow others to freeload? — would be almost impossible to resolve. There is also no other way to create an effective global trade in emission entitlements.

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24 thoughts on “Garnaut to Australia: at least try to keep up

  1. Michael James

    What a load of Tripe.

    Australia, single small country of 22 million is “recognise that it is one of the the world’s three biggest drags on reducing greenhouse gas emissions”?

    Garnaut should perhaps remove his head from whatever place it is currently residing and take a good hard look around.

    China, 1.1 billion people (close to 50 times our population) and the top emitter of greenhouse gasses

    United States, 305 million people (14 times our population) and the second greatest emitter of greenhouse gasses

    The EU, 501 million people (22 times our population) and the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses

    India, 1 billion people (45 times our population) climbing out of poverty, with the commensurate increased requirements for power, they will need to look at fossil fuels partly because our idiot Government won’t sell them uranium, but happily will to China?

    Australia might rate highly in the minids of some pollies, but in the scheme we are small potatoes, someting which needs to be kept in mind when people state Australia has to ‘do something’ or else the Barrier Reef will die’.

    If we shut down Australia for good tonight, shuttered our entire country and turned all the lights out, it would make not the slightest difference , for within one year China would have more than made up for our entire emissions output with new coal fired plants.

    Crap like this might work for the alarmists, but Garnaut should know better.

    A lot less of the hyperbole and some actual facts would help Garnauts case. Alarmism and demonstrably false statements such as this help no one, least of all his own cause.

    United States

  2. Richard Wilson

    To me, these remarks appear as little more than follow up propaganda from a globalist elite bent on controlling energy internationally at the expense of the public, the states and the non insider business community. Why are we not arguing that emissions should be based on area covered not people i.e. emissions by land mass e.g. per square mile of territory? On that basis Australia’s emissions would be inconsequential.

    I am reading today that Obama, in defiance of congress, is attempting to shut down all major forms of non renewable energy, in particular coal, by slapping a massive tax on all existing plants while a the same time giving a free pass to insiders like GE, McDonalds and the rest of the globalist cronies in that place. You have a situation taking shape in the US where the heaviest polluters will receive “pollution indulgences” while non insider business, manufacturing, local and state government will be slugged viciously. Talk about crony capitalism! While non insider energy companies and others go out of business, the big boys are getting dispensations. Is this what Garnaut has in mind for Australia – selling out to the multinationals what little sovereignty we have left? In my view, this is nothing more than a formula to ensure that the globalist insiders control energy in every country at the expense of national sovereignty and private enterprise of the non crony capitalist form. Are we back in Suharto’s Indonesia or is simply for the greater good of mankind!

  3. jimD

    There is one elephant in the living room that might lead to resolution, of a sort. It is the trade issue. The Chinese may decide, if they do end up investing heavily in sustainable energy, to use this as a prop for their sale of consumables in countries which are concerned about climate change.Their dependency on Australian minerals can be relocated – to Brazil, for example – and China has many agendas to fill through use of trade as diplomatic instrument around the world. Meanwhile, the US – assuming sane leadership prevails there (not a slam dunk, as they say) – may decide to make a virtue out of necessity, by reducing their use of foreign oil (an inevitable development anyway, given peak oil concerns) and placing themselves in the ranks of the emission reducers. France has already muttered darkly about going to the WTO on the issue of imposing carbon taxes on imports from high emitting nations and manufacturers – a possible way to gain some stealth protection for the local industries. And, no doubt, there are many other permutations on the trade protection argument . One thing is for sure: if Australia does nothing to reduce its own carbon footprint it will be an easy target for anyone looking for a bit of international trade action on the cheap.

    In other words, it may not be merely irresponsible of us to refuse Garnaut’s call to try to take some international leadership on emissions reduction; it could end up being immensely stupid as well.

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