Where is the action man? Having been such a vocal advocate of international action being taken against the regime of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, I suppose it is only appropriate, now that actions are not working out as planned, that Kevin Rudd feels he should be playing a role in getting things back on track. Our Foreign Minister is flying off to Rome from Washington, after a short stop-over on St Kitts in the Caribbean, to join what is known as the Libya Contact Group to guide the future course of the Libyan conflict. It’s just that it seems a bit odd for Australia to be thinking its wisdom will solve the problem when it does not think it appropriate to actually contribute to the allied fighting effort.

Far more appropriate, I would have thought, for the Rudd diplomatic efforts to be concentrated on the great moral challenge facing the world for all the effort and energy of the climate change policies being devised back in Canberra while he goes talking in the last 10 days in Paris, London, Jerusalem and Berlin, before Washington, St Kitts and Rome. For one thing that is clear about reducing Australia’s green house gas emissions is that it will all be for nothing unless the world as a whole makes substantially more progress than has happened so far.

The workshops at the UNFCCC meetings in Bangkok on April 3 and 4 provided the opportunity for countries to clarify their pledges and to increase their ambition level but have not seen much progress. According to the Climate Action Tracker, current emission reduction pledges, after the close of the Cancun climate conference, fall short of what is needed to get the world on track for limiting global warming to 2 and 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Both of these warming limits are mentioned in the agreement. To keep warming limited to these targets, global total emissions need to drop below 44 billion tonnes CO2eq per year by 2020. After adding up reduction proposals of individual countries and taking into account accounting provisions, expected global emissions leave a gap of 12 billion tonnes CO2eq/yr by 2020. In Cancun, countries discussed a wide range of options that influence the size of the gap. If countries would implement the most stringent reductions they have proposed with most stringent accounting, the remaining ‘reduction gap’ would shrink to 8 billion tonnes CO2eq/yr.

The United Nations Environment Programme summarises emissions pledges and goals in this way:

The great Adelaide Oval vote. A crucial election in Australia this evening. Members of the South Australian Cricket Association meet to decide whether the most beautiful cricket ground in the world be despoiled by development to enable Australian rules football to be played in the centre of the city. Is nothing sacred? We will know by the morning.

The great Gillard achievement. On the day that Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave some details of her plan to give financial rewards to the nation’s best teachers, it was a little unfortunate that a chief education adviser to the US President Barack Obama was reported saying that NAPLAN-style testing and reporting had failed in the United States by narrowing the curriculum and corrupting education standards. The “education revolution” is supposed to be the great Gillard achievement yet Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, who headed Obama’s education policy transition team, maintains that ”we have learnt about the potential negative effects of very narrow tests, particularly when they are put in a high-stakes context.”  And surely there will be no “high-stakes context” greater than starting to pay teachers based on test results.

Peter Fray

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