A cynical observer might suggest that the quality that makes Ian Campbell most ideally suited to his current portfolio is an apparently malfunctioning blush reflex.

The Minister’s own opinion piece on climate change: “Among our international peers we are considered world leaders.”

Again: “Very few Australians know the Australian Government is a world leader in combating climate change.”

And again: “Australia is doing more than most countries in the greenhouse policy area. We’re respected internationally for our policy efforts, for our investments and for our practical outcomes.”

It’s like watching Perfect Match – your instinct is to cower behind the couch with your hands over your ears, but you’re somehow transfixed by the breathtaking inanity of it all.

Let’s face it. Regardless of whether or not one accepts that the federal government should be taking effective action to curb emissions, it’s rather difficult to sell the idea that it is. Right now its climate change initiatives resemble the high-noon set of a spaghetti western – some money spent on the facade, but no real substance behind it.

This week the Minister is in Nairobi for the second Kyoto MOP, to discuss – among other things – new emissions targets post-Kyoto. Campbell will argue that the big emerging emitters (plus the US) must be included in future agreements. Meanwhile, the PM is set to push the government’s clean coal technology stance at the APEC summit.

In broad brush strokes, the government has two things right: technology must play a central role in winding down carbon emissions, and the US and emerging emitters must be brought into the fold. It is Kyoto’s failure to accomplish the latter that has always been the government’s justification for its rejection.

But this rejection means that the Australian delegation can only attend the Nairobi meeting with observer status. In this capacity, will Campbell get a chance to talk up Australia’s “world leader” credentials? Will anybody take him seriously, or will somebody from the German delegation just stick a Post-It with “kick me” on his back at the cocktail party?

Nobody who ratified the Kyoto protocol would doubt that the agreement must expand to include all significant emitters. But if the nations that made their economic fortunes burning fossil fuels can’t show leadership by example on this issue, it seems naïve to expect the emerging economies to come to the table – the PM’s “all in or we’re out” stance is surely a political and diplomatic pipedream. Yet this remains the fundamental philosophical sticking point between those who favour building on Kyoto versus those all for scrapping it.

In the meantime – Australia a world leader in the fight against climate change? To work your hardest to rip the teeth out of an agreement, repudiate it because it lacks bite, then claim this mantle is more than a little bit cheeky. Suffice to say it would be more than enough to make Greg Evans blush.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW