Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kyoto Dreaming

Interesting opinion piece about the Kyoto Protocol by Paul Kelly in today's Australian. His broad political point is one I agree with fully: Howard's stubborn position on Kyoto has damaged him needlessly. When attacked on the matter, Howard likes to remind us that Australia has met the targets Kyoto would've imposed on us. Which is true, and brings us to the question: why, then, can we not ratify it, if only as a symbolic gesture? The idea that ratifying Kyoto would have turned Australia into an economic basket case is patently ridiculous. Our targets under Kyoto were not cumbersome; we have met them anyway; and refusing to ratify the protocol merely makes us look selfish, and provides a sliver of an excuse for the US to go on justifying its own Kyoto-stonewalling.

And domestically, Howard's stance makes no sense whatsoever: it's unpopular, and has allowed Kevin Rudd to paint himself as the climate-change messiah of prime ministerial candidates. Malcolm Turnbull, for one, is said to be furious with Howard's pointless intransigence on the subject, given the delicate environmental sensibilities of the voters in his marginal electorate. Kelly is magnificently clear in pointing out Howard's folly:

Consider Howard's position. Should he ratify a protocol that is vastly popular and whose terms, as they apply to Australia, he is determined to honour and uphold? And his answer: absolutely not.

Typically, Kelly does not let Rudd off lightly, either. Labor's policy on climate change is somewhat amorphous at the moment. Rudd loves the big-picture stuff – sign Kyoto! 60% reduction by 2050! – but is shakier on the finer detail, like interim targets, or the exact form a national emissions trading scheme would take.

And then there's Rudd's claims that he would fully embrace a new protocol that set binding targets for developing countries. Fine, so would we all, but the fact is that the developing world is currently resisting such binding targets, pointing out, with some justification, that it was the Western countries that made the mess in the first place - shouldn't they be responsible for cleaning it up? It's going to take more than Australian acquiescence to shift them on the matter, and meantime Rudd needs a clear policy on how he intends to proceed if binding targets for the developing world continue as a sticking point.

But I still think Kelly is being too hard on Rudd over his answer to the question: "what will signing Kyoto achieve?" Here's Rudd's answer, which Kelly says is "vague and elusive":

it will show we are serious and want to help forge a global solution

So what should Rudd have said? What is the benefit of ratifying Kyoto, Mr Kelly?

Kyoto has a universal standing as a goodwill gesture. It has the perfect image of wanting a better, cleaner world, with its opponents clinging to an older, polluted world. The power of such images cannot be denied.

Showing we want to help forge a global solution versus a goodwill gesture. Seems like a distinction without a difference to me.

1 comment:

diego luego said...

I can't find the original of this, reported in the Blayney News.

"Climate change campaigner Al Gore has stopped short of backing federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd, but says ratifying the Kyoto Protocol should be foremost in Australian voter's minds........And I would say that whoever in Australia agrees with the point of view I've just expressed, - that we have to solve the climate crisis - ought to look very carefully at the fact that one candidate's for ratifying Kyoto and the other is not."
reported 22/09/2007