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What is Australia’s plan for Copenhagen?

December 3, 2009

The official website for the Copenhagen meeting is announcing that India is about to set emissions target at 24 percent. Reuters, the site tells us, has obtained provisional figures showing that the Indian government thinks it is possible to cut its carbon intensity by 24 percent in 2020. By 2030, India estimates it could achieve a reduction in carbon emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels. Norway, South Korea, Brazil and Japan have all increased their level of ambition. China and the US are starting to battle over who will be the dominant power in the clean energy economy. Where is Australia positioned now?

Jairam Ramesh

Apparently India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh will announce the target in Parliament today. This means that India, the fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, will follow the two top emitters, US and China, and arrive in Copenhagen with a position. Meanwhile, Nicholas Stern has released two new research papers ready for Copenhagen to help convince Governments that may be dragging their heels. Ironically, he has identified Australia as strategically important to lead the world in cutting back it’s carbon emissions – although Stern was probably thinking of Australia at the beginning of this week.

With the Government’s Emissions Trading legislation defeated for a second time, where is Australia now? What position will our Government take during Copenhagen?

Yvo de Boer

Yvo de Boer is hopeful of “… a clear agreement in Copenhagen and an agreement that specifies 2020 emission reduction targets for rich nations and an agreement that specifies what major developing countries like China will do to limit the growth of their emissions“. He is also suggesting there is a strong change for a legally binding climate treaty by June 2010 – which is right about the time Australia will be distracted by the wrangling over who will govern the country.

It seems that we really cant wait that long to have a firm position.

While James Hansen, one of the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, suggests that any agreement likely to emerge from the Copenhagen negotiations will be so deeply flawed that it would be better to start again from scratch, politics and science are two different beasts and the beginning of agreement is better than no agreement at all. International negotiation is always incremental and the global community has to start somewhere. At best we can establish some norms in the coming weeks that will allow us to go forward. But, to even get to first base Governments have to come forward with their positions.

So, with the defeat of the Emissions Trading legislation is Australia going to be a player or a passenger in the battle for the future or, as some commentators are speculating, have both sides of politics simply abdicated responsibility until some vague point in the future?

polar bear and iceYes, there is much at stake for business and economies. There is also much at stake for the future of our planet and the wildlife that share this space we all call home.

Copenhagen is an important first step towards addressing the realities of our future, so does the Rudd Government have a fallback for Copenhagen that will allow us to stand with our face forward, or will we be present but ashamedly staring at our shoes.

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The official website for the Copenhagen meeting [http://en.cop15.dk/news/view+news?newsid=2795] is announcing that India is about to set emissions target at 24 percent. Reuters, the site tells us, has obtained provisional figures showing that the Indian government thinks it is possible to cut its carbon intensity by 24 percent in 2020. By 2030, India estimates it could achieve a reduction in carbon emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels.

Apparently India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh will announce the target in Parliament today. This means that India, the fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, will follow the two top emitters, US and China, and arrive in Copenhagen with a position.

Norway, South Korea, Brazil and Japan have all increased their level of ambition. China and the US are starting to battle over who will be the dominant power in the clean energy economy

Meanwhile, Nicholas Stern has released two new research papers ready for Copenhagen to help convince Governments not to drag their heels. Ironically, he has identified Australia as strategically important to lead the world in cutting back its carbon emissions.

With the Governments Emissions Trading legislation defeated for a second time, where is Australia now? What position will our Government take during Copenhagen?

Yvo de Boer [http://en.cop15.dk/news/view+news?newsid=2801] is hopeful of “… a clear agreement in Copenhagen and an agreement that specifies 2020 emission reduction targets for rich nations and an agreement that specifies what major developing countries like China will do to limit the growth of their emissions”. He is also suggesting there is a strong change for a legally binding climate treaty by June 2010.

James Hansen [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/02/copenhagen-climate-change-james-hansen], one of the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, is suggesting that any agreement likely to emerge from the Copenhagen negotiations will be so deeply flawed that it would be better to start again from scratch. I am not sure I agree with this premise, and would say, with utmost respect, that politics and science are two different beats. International agreement is always incremental and we have to start somewhere. At best we can establish some norms in the coming weeks that will allow us to go forward.

But to even get to first base, Government have to come forward with their positions. So, with the defeat of the Emissions Trading legislation is Australia going to a player or a passenger in the battle for the future, or, as some commentators [http://blogs.crikey.com.au/rooted/2009/12/01/the-soul-of-the-liberal-party-hangs-on-this/] are speculating have both sides of politics simply abdicated responsibility?

Yes, there is much at stake for business and economies. There is also much at stake for the future of our planet and the wildlife that share this space we all call home.

Copenhagen is an important first step towards addressing the realities of our future, so again, I ask, does the Rudd Government have a fallback for Copenhagen that will allow us to stand with our face forward, rather than ashamedly staring at our shoes. If so, what is it?

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