The long-awaited White Paper version of the government’s emissions trading scheme is out. I’ve been too disheartened to read anything more than the summary so far. The target of a 5 per cent reduction on 2000 emissions by 2020 seems designed to secure the support of the Opposition, which will probably not be forthcoming anyway. That’s about the only defence that could be made for it.
The government’s main argument in favour of such a weak target is based on Australia’s relatively high rate of population growth. I have no objection to per capita, rather than national, emissions targets in the context of a contract-and-converge agreement leading ultimately to a uniform global allowance per person. But if you wanted to argue that way, the fact that Australia has one of the highest emission levels per person in the world means that our (interim and final) reduction targets must be more stringent than those of other countries.
At this point, the only real hope is that the Obama Administration will take a strong line on the issue. If it does, then the US-EU combination will dragoon recalcitrants like Australia into a sustainable agreement whatever Rudd and Turnbull might say or do about it.