What changed in 2008?On 05/30/2019 by admin
A barrage of conferences, summits, reviews and political arguments are where Australia and the world has left 2008, on the thorny issue of climate change, says SBS radio\’s Michelle Aleksandrovics.
From public obscurity less than five years ago to an almost-daily topic in the media, climate change and how to adapt to it became one of the major international issues of concern in 2008.
The first round of United Nations climate change talks got underway in Bangkok in March, following tough negotiations in Bali in November and December 2007.
Parties had agreed at Bali to jointly step up international efforts to combat climate change, with the aim of a plan with set targets in Copenhagen in 2009.
And it was in Bali that the new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced he would ratify the Kyoto Protocol and was serious about tackling climate change.
Mr Rudd had already engaged the services of Ross Garnaut, an economist and mining corporation chairman who suddenly became one of the most famous – and seemingly powerful – people in Australia.
62-year-old Professor Garnaut\’s mandate with his Climate Change Review was to provide the Federal Government with recommendations on economic impacts, and medium to long-term policy frameworks on navigating climate challenges.
His advice was touted as being the main influence on future government policy.
Professor Garnaut\’s final report was released on the 30th of September 2008.
The Government had already said it wanted to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, and 20 per cent of the nation\’s power to be generated by wind, solar and other renewable technology by 2020.
The professor left no doubt as to what he believed was the best way forward for Australia as part of a global community.
“Without early and strong action, some time before 2020 we will realise we\’ve indelibly surrendered to forces that have moved beyond our control. Delaying now is not postponing a decision, it\’s making a decision. To delay is deliberately to choose to avoid effective steps to reduce the risks of climate change to acceptable levels,” Prof Garnaut.
Professor Garnaut\’s final report recommended that Australia should aim for a 25 per-cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 as long as there was a global climate agreement.
He said that if this did not happen, cuts should be ten per-cent because any emissions trading scheme would be too costly if Australia attempted to tackle climate change on its own.
The report also recommended an annual investment of $2.7 billion dollars to be spent on research and the commercial development of low-emission technologies.
Professor Garnaut said emissions trading should start in 2010.
Carbon permits should be sold at a fixed price of $20 a tonne indexed to inflation, plus four per cent.
The final report provided the high level policy recommendations requested by the Federal Government for its policy paper on a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, to be released in December.
It was a report that received mixed response around Australia.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions President Sharon Burrow said Professor Garnaut was being too conservative and the development of green industries needed greater research and financial support.
“Investment in energy efficiency and indeed in technology, green technology. So we so we can take the economic opportunities of growing green jobs that other countries are doing. At the same time we want those trade exposed industries with us with sustainable jobs in 20 years time, so it\’s a big challenge,” Ms Burrow said.
Business groups agreed that financial outcomes were vital to consensus.
Greg Evans, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce, said Austrlaia needed to achieve a realistic picture of how climate policy would affect medium and small businesses.
“We welcome the contribution as a useful report but it\’s just one part of a fairly long process before the government nominates targets later this year. We really need to see what the economic implications are. I mean, it\’s really only half a debate at the moment. But we really don\’t have the bottom line. We really don\’t know how much this is going to affect business. It\’s been said before but this will have a profound impact on business,” he said.
While individual sectors waited for the Federal Government\’s Treasury modelling on the economics of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the rest of the world continued with its own individual national and global talks on the issue.
The first round of United Nations climate change talks in 2008 got under way in Bangkok, Thaliand at the end of March and marked the beginning of a new negotiating phase, drawing delegates from 162 countries tasked with fleshing out the Bali Road Map.
This involved drawing up a work program for a future international climate pact to successfully halt the increase in global emissions within the next 10 to 15 years and dramatically reduce emissions by mid-century.
Talks moved to Bonn, Germany in June and Accra, Ghana in August before finishing in Poznan, Poland in December.
The UN\’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer said the most promising result was agreement on an Adaptation Fund to protect developing countries from the impacts of climate change, and support them to adapt.
The Copenhagen conference in December 2009 is expected to work out a new emissions agreement to replace Kyoto, the first phase of which expires at the end of 2012.
The world was still no closer to agreement on global emissions targets, the responsibility of developed countries for historical carbon pollution, and the challenges of burgeoning economies like India and China.
China had been attacked internationally for its high emitting industries, and now emits 18.5 per-cent of the world\’s greenhouse gases, second only to the United States, on 22 per-cent.
Australia a big polluter
Australia is the world\’s 16th biggest carbon polluter, but actually produces five times more carbon pollution per person than China.
Ross Garnaut says Australia could actually look to China for ways of reducing reliance on energy-intensive industries.
“China right now is doing more to inhibit emissions growth in the energy intensive industries than Australia is. In a series of measures over the last few years it\’s raised the cost of energy to energy intensive industries, it\’s discouraged investment in the energy intensive industries. China has by far the world\’s biggest program for promotion of low emission energy sources,” he said.
Promotion of low emissions energy industries and how Australia would cope was investigated by Federal Treasury, which found that reducing greenhouse gases would not cripple economic growth or drive businesses overseas.
The modelling also showed that emissions trading would push up inflation by around one percent when introduced in 2010, and cost Australian households a dollar a day.
It was a result welcomed by environmentalists and unions, and cautiously received by businesses.
The Federal Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull was not so optimistic.
“In our view, an emissions trading scheme, the design of it, shouldn\’t be finalised until after we have seen what the new US President policy will be and the new US congress\’ policy will be and of course above all, what the rest of the world is going to do as we\’ll see at the Copenhagen summit at the end of next year,” Mr Turnbull said.
The Prime Minister had long been adamant that Australia would not wait for the rest of the world.
White paper released
He released the Government\’s White Paper – its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – in December.
It was a plan that surprised many.
The Federal Government set a target of reducing Australia\’s emissions by five percent by 2020, if the world didn\’t reach a deal on climate change by that time.
The targeted cut would rise to 15 percent if the world comes to an agreement.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the country that a carbon reduction scheme would push up electricity and gas prices by an average of around six dollars a week, and also increase the price of food and petrol.
“We of course have been very mindful of low income earners and have properly compensated them to ensure that the cost which flows through from this scheme is more than offset by the compensation package provided. We do not make the same provision for all income earners,” Mr Rudd said.
And in the face of environmentalists\’ protests and the Greens political party\’s call for a Senate inquiry into the scheme, Mr Rudd maintained that he had taken the most responsible approach he could, in the current economic climate.
“The Australian government, given the global financial crisis, makes no apologies whatsoever for introducing responsible medium term targets to bring down our greenhouse gas emissions, capable of being built on in the future more ambitiously. That\’s what we\’ve done. We believe it\’s the responsible course of action given the global financial crisis. It\’s necessary for the economy and it\’s also a strong step forward in dealing with this environmental challenge,” the prime minister said.
National opinion was divided on whether the Government had gone too far, or not far enough.
Ross Garnaut stood back and saw many of his recommendations ignored, and others acted upon.
But no matter what Professor Garnaut thought, his job was done – and a bigger job was just beginning.
“As a changed future approaches, Australians will find themselves thinking about how much they care about dimensions of our national life that have always been taken for granted. If we and the world do too little the risks are high that there will be change beyond recognition in the economic and therefore social conditions in the Western district, the South West of Western Australia and in the Murray Darling,”