While Australia has been transfixed by the meltdown of the Liberal party, there have been a string of positive developments around the world, which make a positive outcome from Copenhagen, leading over the next year to an intermational agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, much more likely than it seemed two years ago, or even six months ago. Among the most important developments
* Obama’s commitment to a 17 per cent (rel 2005) target, which essentially puts the Administration’s credibility behind Waxman-Markey
* China’s acceptance of a quantitative emissions target, based on emissions/GDP ratios, but implying a substantial cut relative to business as usual
* The change of government in Japan, from do-little LDP to activist DPJ
* EU consensus on the need for stronger action
* Acceptance of the principle of compensation for developing countries, and acceptance by countries like India that they should take part in a global agreement and argue for compensation
A notable consequence has been the announcement by Canadian PM Harper that he will go to Copenhagen, having previously said he wouldn’t. Canada is a hotbed (coldbed?) of delusionism, and Harper has reneged on Canada’s Kyoto commitments. That was fine while Bush was in, but now he finds himself on the outer with Obama and threatened with suspension from the Commonwealth. More serious measures, such as trade sanctions, are being kept out of view for the moment, but they are already being discussed in both EU and US circles.
Harper’s embarrassing backflip is an indication of the silliness of the idea that Australia is in danger of “getting in front of the rest of the world”. If fruit loops like Abbott and Minchin get any share of political power in this country, even the partial veto associated with control of the Opposition, we run the risk of finding ourselves at the back of the pack, and paying a hefty price.
As with most international agreements, the outcome from Copenhagen will prove far short of ideal. But once the world is on the right track, and it becomes evident that the costs of stabilising the global climate are far smaller than the delusionist doomsayers have pretended, it should be possible to improve. With luck we will be in time not just to save ourselves from the worst-case disasters but to give vulnerable systems like the Great Barrier Reef a chance at survival.