G8 and APEC

The deal on climate change announced at the G8 conference is, in practical terms, a face-saving compromise rather than a substantive agreement. But it does have some real implications.

First, barring some last-minute pullout by China or India, it locks everyone who matters into the UN’s post-Kyoto process ending in 2009. As far as I can tell, no-one at G8 noted Australia’s world-leading initiatives or suggested that it would be a good idea to wait until September when the issue could be discussed at APEC in Sydney. Maybe there’s some wiggle room to reopen the topic, but as far as I can see the idea of a Sydney declaration is dead on arrival. Bush’s initial proposal, similar to Howard’s idea, got no support from anyone and was dropped.

Second, although Bush’s promise to “consider” a 50 per cent cut by 2050 is worthless, the deal makes it clear that this will be the focal point for future discussions, at least as far as developed countries are concerned. The idea that Australia might be able to announce its own lower target is just silly. The remaining sticking point is the starting date from which the cut is to be calculated. The EU wants 1990. The government would obviously prefer to calculate from 2012, but as I’ve observed previously, our failure to ratify Kyoto leaves us without a leg to stand on here.

Finally, while Bush didn’t give a lot of ground, he certainly didn’t gain any. Canada and Japan sided with the EU, and they all committed to the 50 per cent cut. Bush’s concessions may have been mainly rhetorical but they will provide political cover for his successor to follow through with some real action.

5 thoughts on “G8 and APEC

  1. Howard’s reforestation initiative while commendable will go largely unseen. Worse it may assuage feelings of guilt in the affluent world as it continues to emit merrily. FAO confirms that tropical forests are where the effort should go http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000385/index.html. Preserving trees closer to suburbia like Queensland brigalow, Tasmanian bluegums or indeed Canadian conifers is less effective as these forests are in near carbon equilibrium. It’s all very well to criticise illegal logging in PNG but those involved will need an alternative which produces a good income as well as being sustainable. Until those alternatives are demonstrated the locals might feel the colonial masters should stick to solving the problem in their own backyard.

    The main target should be reduced coal burning by the affluent. If clean coal works then implement it now.

  2. The best thing we can say about Australia’s approach is that, luckily, it is an insignificant country containing insignificant people and so has relatively little impact either on others’ views or global temperatures per se.

    The United States is of course the opposite, a great country unfortunately run by an imbecile surrounded by sycophants. Its approach is damaging for the planet.

    (Of course, US policy also led to Australia’s – “monkey see monkey do”.)

  3. Dennis Shanahan in yesterday’s Australian suggests that the Sydney Declaration will be the rabbit out of the hat for the Howard regime. He also suggests that the PM and US have killed off Kyoto. Kyoto however was a first step of a long process and something that Australia should have ratified to gain the high moral ground.

    It appears to be a hopeful position put by Dennis Shanahan but it will probably depend on if Bob Brown can get his idea of a Polluters’ club into the vernacular or not. Peter Garrett needs to sharpen his language in a similar way if he is to get his ideas across.

    The appointment of L’Strange is intended to make Howard appear statesmanlike and in control and to make Australian voters think that we have the answers to the problems of the world which are far more sensible than any thing that the many other nations can devise.

    In the real world of course a policy which lets other nations of this region off the hook along with Australia is a cynical and backward step.

    Common sense tells us that without a tangible goal any achievement is not measurable. If it is not measured it is not important to the government as no public servant will take it seriously as there is no accountability. If the public service isn’t taking it seriously then how could it possibly be brought to a reality.

    A rabbit out of the hat with plenty of smoky pollution and shiny mirrors.

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