Overnight the UK Government — in the midst of a recession that makes our looks like a frolic — announced a “step change in UK ambition on climate change”. The British Government is now committed to a 34% reduction in the UK’s carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2020. This equates to a 24% reduction on 2000 levels.

The Rudd Government is committed to a 5% reduction on 2000 levels or, at most, 15% if the rest of the world comes to an agreement.

The Government might say that Australia’s population is increasing, but so too is Britain’s — in fact Britain’s population is growing faster now than it has for decades, and is one of the fastest growing in Western Europe.

And unlike Australia, the UK Government is also aiming to achieve the 34% reduction without using foreign-sourced permits, meaning it will be achieved through genuine emissions reductions, not offsets purchased on Third World forests.

It’s not that hard. All it takes is political courage. Kevin Rudd’s UK counterpart faces terrible polls, an election next year, and an economy deep under water. And yet he has embraced the need to get serious about climate change and start moving to a low-emissions economy.

In doing so he has illustrated how small-minded and gutless the Rudd Government is on climate change.

And the impacts of climate change will be felt far sooner, and will be far more costly, for Australia than for the UK.

Peter Fray

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