Think
global, act locally. Fair enough. But as part of the thinking globally, how
about looking globally, too?

Just before
the Business Roundtable Report on Climate Change was going out last week, more than 60 leading international climate change
experts were urging Canada’s incoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to review
the greenhouse policies he inherited – Kyoto, in other words.

The
scientists wrote:

Much of the billions of dollars earmarked for
implementation of the protocol in Canada will be squandered without a proper
assessment of recent developments in climate science.

“Climate change is real” is a meaningless
phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate
catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is
justified.

Global climate changes all the time due to
natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish
from this natural “noise”.

Paul
Keating once said that in the race of life you should always back the horse
called self interest because at least you know its trying.

The release
of the report by the self-titled Australian Business Roundtable on Climate
Change – and their new pals at the Australian Conservation Foundation – should
been seen as nothing more than PR. It is green garb for a collection of companies
with various but direct interests in promoting an expensive switch in energy
policy in Australia.

Who are
they? Westpac, BP, power company Origin Energy, paper giant Visy and insurers
Swiss Re and IAG.

Let’s start
with Visy. Visy makes its money out of making and selling packaging. It is not
a relatively heavy energy user. Its business case is built around sourcing high
levels of materials input from recycled packaging. Recycled input is cheaper
than virgin material. Visy therefore has been an active promoter of recycling
because it makes good business sense. It is also good business for Visy to
protect and enhance its environmental credentials.

Swiss Re
and IAG are insurers. They have been talking up the impacts of climate change
for the past five years so they can justify increased premiums against
increased risk of damage from the effects of climate change. Cute, hey?

Origin is
in the gas business. The gas suppliers are keen to promote climate change so
that state governments come under pressure to switch from coal to gas fired
electricity. It has about half the greenhouse emissions per GWh – but is a lot
more expensive. So, PR.

Talking of
PR, BP has invested millions rebranding itself as a “green” energy company
whose core business strategy is to seek to gain market share by selling the
same CO2 emitting fossil fuels to an environmentally concerned marketplace as
its rivals. Quite a neat trick. Like the highly publicised but mostly symbolic
solar programs for the past decade.

The report
these companies – and the ACF – have prepared all but ignores the colossal
economic impacts of serious early action on climate change in Australia. It ignores the complete
pointlessness of early action on climate change in isolation to a global
approach.

Finally –
but by no means least – it also ignores the hypocrisy that these companies are
all investing or benefiting from investing in the economic growth engines of
China and India where the real challenges lie in allowing growth while
controlling emissions, and where most of the world’s future greenhouse gas
emissions will come from.

This is not
corporate leadership on climate change. It is unctuous spin. Or what’s
sometimes called hot air.

Peter Fray

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