Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is Kevin Rudd really a climate pessimist?

Some curious statements by Kevin Rudd have been reported from the G8 chinwag.

On the one hand he states publicly that the world should strive to reach agreements on reducing carbon emissions at Copenhagen and the importance of this.

Then in a quieter conversation with the Danish PM (maybe off the record, but recorded?) he says he is "pessimistic about the world reaching agreement on reducing carbon emissions at Copenhagen" and that "our negotiators are hampered".

Our negotiators are hampered - by the Rudd Government's policy settings for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - which thankfully has not yet been passed by the Senate, and hopefully won't be.

The CPRS sets an upper cap on Australia's negotiating range of 25% reductions by 2050, and has a measly and demonstrably inadequate 5% committed (minimum) target. Which is equivalent to no emission reductions.

So here are some tips for you Kevin:
  • Set the negotiating range as 25% to 100% by 2050
  • Set real targets for annual tangible emission reductions - which means no increases every henceforth, and no offsets
  • Display leadership on this issue - not pessimism
  • Focus on the thousands of green jobs associated clean energy research, development, manufacturing, installation and exports.
  • Announce a twenty year transition off fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas
  • Stop listening to entrenched industry interests that are polluting your government's policies and response to climate change - and start listening to the people.
It's your job to do this Kevin. You are the leader of our country.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff Peter. Keep flying the flag here - in grim times reading your blog keeps me optimistic. Hopefully we can reach a human tipping point when we finally move to a sustainable and commonsense future.

Grant said...

Sorry Peter I disagree with some of your points at the end. The Government knows that unless 2 groups are behind it, then nothing will be achieved.

a. If industry does not support any actions taken by the Government, then they will do nothing, and pass all increased costs directly back to consumers. In addition, as cheap imports soar, staff will need to be laid off. They will also advise the community that all cost increases are directly as a result of the Government policies, which would be political suicide at the next election, i.e. back to Liberals, and no action at all.

b. From the point of view of Mr and Mrs Average in the outer suburbs, and country residents. They are happy for the Government to initiate action, as long as their living standards are not impacted. They are generally short of money, so cannot afford, even with subsidies, solar power or even solar hot water (go for a drive in outer suburbs and see how many solar panels are installed). Try to force them, and the Government would be history.

With the transition off fossil fuels, yes, the Government should have a plan for the reduction, but it would need to be over the next 50 years so increased costs to Mr and Mrs Average and industry could be slowly implemented, else again the Government would revert back to Liberals. For starters, 100 years of motor vehicle (cars) development cannot be wiped in 25 years. At the moment, there are no practical cars for the average family to replace petrol / diesel burning engines, and no cars (except possibly hydrogen powered when refueling stations could be established) for people that need to move out of city areas. Trucks are a different matter again. I am not aware of any non fossil fuel power plant even on the horizon, that will be able to power trucks. You can forget rail for goods transport (except possible very long distance, if rail can match road transport delivery times) as it cannot be door to door, so trucks will still be required. Shipping and air transport are in the same position.
The CPRS is a start, with industry prepared to partially support (with subsidies) so reductions can begin. I believe Mr and Mrs Average and country residents are also prepared to have a progressively implemented reduction scheme (CPRS), but for support to be achieved, and objectives met, it will need to be a slowly implemented scheme. Remember for a project to met its objectives, all stakeholders have to agree, or it is dead from day one. We do not want to be in the same boat as Canada was when they announced to the world large reductions, but without business and Mr and Mrs Average support, they came to grief and had to rethink the whole target issue. We were in Vancouver a couple of years ago and there was no evidence that either business or Mr and Mrs Average were at all interested in reductions unless the objectives were realistic targets.

I would suggest that the Greens should support the Government CPRS, and work toward steady carbon reductions over a period of time, else if the CPRS is not implemented, then it may be many years before another attempt is instigated.

Peter Campbell said...

The government seems to be largely stuck supporting old style industries with profligate energy use and carbon emissions. They are not yet willing to support the vast potential to transition jobs to clean green energy options.

We already have lots of cheap imports in Australia, and have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the last four decades in Australia. Investing in clean energy has potential to create thousands of local green collar jobs.

Regarding the Liberals, I don't think a CPRS they would have devised would have been very different from what the Rudd government has proposed. The same fossil fuel industry interests would influence them, and they have Labor.

There will need to be some adjustments to everyonea lifestyles. High carbon emission activities - such as motoring for example - need to be curtailed, but perhaps not eliminated.

The government could directly fund retrofitting housing stock - at no cost to occupants - and recover the cost through savings in energy bills.

The Greens and the Liberals should not support the CPRS for the simple reason that it locks in failure. The worst polluters are given free permits and no incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. The carbon prices is kept at $10 per tonne initially. Permits are granted as property rights so they will have be bought back when real emission reductions are desired. In addition the offset option will translate to exporting green jobs overseas.

The bottom line is that it won't reduce emissions. There will be no political will to tighten it up down the track.

A couple of references for more information:

1. The Greenprint - for a sustainable society

2. The end of the world as we know it - creating a paradigm shift - still working on this one