Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weak climate law won't help us in Copenhagen

Today's edition of The Age carries my letter responding to a report that Al Gore thinks passing Australia's weak climate law might help achieve an international climate agreement in Copenhagen in December.

Gore's suggestion seems to reflect the kind of incrementalist view currently dividing environment groups in Australia. The argument is that we should support any step forward in the hope that further improvements will be possible down the track.

The trouble is, the timeframe for achieving such intermediate steps to a safe climate will see us run foul of climate tipping points that science shows are being approached far more rapidly than anticipated. Better to acknowledge the science and aim for an effective (and fair) agreement now.

An inferior international agreement will likely be sold politically as mission accomplished on climate, even though it sets us on a collision course with further severe climate impacts such as the Black Saturday bushfires.

Consequently, I think Gore, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Climate Institute are wrong in their endorsement of Australia's current climate policy. They are dealing themselves into a losing game and fragmenting the climate campaign for strong policy based on the only yardstick that matters - science.

Here's my letter, as submitted:
Despite the contribution of Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, to raising awareness of the climate threat, I cannot agree with Gore's suggestion that passing inadequate Australian legislation will help frame an effective international climate treaty in Copenhagen this December. On the contrary, an emissions trading system with weak targets can only serve to curtail the ambition of these crucial negotiations.

It would be a different story if our legislation set strong science-based targets, including a 2020 reduction of at least 40% on 1990 greenhouse levels. That is not the case, however, and it is difficult to see how the proposed legislation's weak targets, once made law, could influence, or indeed be strengthened by, anything that played out in Denmark.

By the yardstick of the Coalition, Fielding and the climate denialists, Gore, Rudd and Wong look like climate progressives. The trouble is, that's the wrong yardstick. Targets can now be very specifically linked to levels of warming, and in turn to severe impacts such as the Black Saturday bushfires. We must heed the science and acknowledge the link between the targets we set and the impacts we will suffer. Only then will there be hope of returning to a safe climate.
Comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.