Saturday, September 06, 2008

Australia to remain a climate change laggard

Ross Garnault, who the Prime Minister has tasked with delivery of a series of reports mapping out Australia's climate change response, has delivered his latest, and the news is not good.

In an outcome that can only be described as strongly politically influenced, Garnault has re-claimed Australia's status as a special case amongst developed nations, and posited only a 10% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. Unsurprisingly, industry groups have railed against even this low figure, with one of them wailing that this was equivalent to Australia's entire electricity generation industry. Well boo hoo. That industry could do with radical overhaul anyway, since most of it is coal-fired and so quite carbon-dirty. Unfortunately there are no signs such an overhaul will happen.

The 10% figure could have meaninful context in the Government's lack of control of the Senate, with timing perhaps also being an influencer, as implementation of carbon cap-and-trading was flagged for close to the next election (2010). Rudd doesn't seem to be the kind to relish a head-on stoush, possibly a relic of the nature of Labor's election loss at the hands of Keating, and the subsequent decade in the wilderness.

If John Howard had not been booted out of office, Australia's position would have been even worse - but not by an awful lot, at this rate. PM Rudd has consistently retained climate change high on his list of pressing issues, but that does not seem to guarantee optimal outcomes.

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