Howard tap dances on shifting sands


… but a fast-growing one: It is also part of what may be the fastest-growing financial market in the world. The carbon market is worth $US22 billion ($A29 billion), twice as much as a year ago. A year before that it didn’t exist. It is also helping Europe meet its Kyoto targets, since most companies and countries that are active in it are European.

Hot air? But to Australian Prime Minister John Howard – until this week – it was mainly hot air. Howard argued, reportedly against the advice of Environment Minister Ian Campbell, that Australia didn’t yet need an emissions trading scheme. He said the European scheme, which forms the basis of the global market, was flawed.

Aust a late starter: Curnow believes that in delaying, Howard robbed Australian companies of an incentive to cut their emissions, as well as gain invaluable expertise in a new market.

Tapdancing on shifting sands: Then, on Monday, Howard announced the establishment of a taskforce into emissions trading. Howard’s turnaround was more evidence of how quickly the ground is shifting in the field of climate change.

Thar’s gold in them thar emissions: Yet, as both science and politics show, humans are not moving nearly fast enough. As 6000 delegates to a summit on climate change discussed the fate of the planet this week, business people ran stalls, swapped cards and talked about making money. As the presence in Nairobi of Curnow, Cameron and scores of other corporate observers indicated, green capitalism is here.

Strong caps needed: But that doesn’t mean the state is dead: quite the opposite. As British economic adviser Sir Nicholas Stern said in a speech to delegates, the market is only part of the answer to global warming. Strong governments were vital to set ambitious emissions targets, which create the market for carbon by making the credits valuable, to regulate environmentally damaging practices and invest in green technology.

Regulation rules: What is probably dead is not the state but the neo-liberal dream of small government, a casualty of climate change.

The Age, 18/11/2006, p. 4

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