Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Climate change: losing the pivotal moment

The Australian government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is deeply flawed, and in fact discourages individual pollution-saving measures by individuals - the benefits gained will be captured by polluting industries under this proposed emission trading scheme.

Legislation reached the Senate, which has sent it off to enquiry. Public submissions are called.

On current evidence of government and global response, I am very pessimistic about turning back this tide. There are three ironies here:

1) At a time where there is great willingness on the part of governments and electorate to spend large re-stimulating the economy, the government is not grasping the opportunity to target spending and industry incentives to avoid significant climate change;

2) When the sums are done, warming will be seen to slow down (albeit a temporary blip) specifically because of the global economic downturn - and this will lead to greater complacency about the urgency of the problem.

3) The confluence of crises reaches us just at the point where there is broad consensus that global warming is real and serious. Any student of history reading up to this point might make the automatic assumption that action would be taken, because the way forward is so clear.

Via GetUp, I put together a quick submission for the Senate enquiry, as follows:

Current Australian climate change targets truly do not reflect the gravity of the situation.
1) Human-induced change would be more catastrophic than any in history;
2) Upfront economic costs alone are trifling compared to later costs - verified by international reports;
3) Requisite change calls for economic upheaval; it is currently an ideal time to introduce change, for governments to back economic and industry restructure - at no other time will there be such opportunity and willingness for governments to invest - so this investment can be made in meeting both challenges at once;
4) Governments need to display leadership; show the electorate that long-term stability and prosperity is the aim, rather than short-term attempts at propping up dying industries.

It is clear to all that the government's climate change map is both weak and insufficient to effect the necessary change.

Why are we not taking action at the very best point where change can be achieved?

Economic stimulus can achieve both the long-term and short-term goals if it is specifically and entirely directed at initiatives - and industry-adjustment incentives - that protect the environment, species, and biodiversity that we currently have stewardship over.

Generations will otherwise remember this time as a pivotal moment of lost opportunity.

Stephen Simmonds

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