Howard’s browning of the greenhouse emissions debate


Some questions about the Prime Minister, posed by political correspondent Dennis Shanahan in The Australian (21 October 2006, p.3): Has Mr Howard just discovered the environment as an issue? Is he a newcomer to nuclear power because it’s clean and green? Is he linking drought, water shortages and climate change for pure political expediency? Does he refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change because he’s a fuddy-duddy who doesn’t believe in climate change? Or are we watching Howard’s latter-day greening?

The gentleman’s not for turning: The answer to all of the above, writes Shanahan, is no. What we are watching is not the greening of Howard but the browning of the greenhouse emissions debate.

It’s about solutions: Howard is now running a debate in Australia and internationally that accepts that the greenhouse effect or climate change is under way, but is looking at solutions with an economic and industry base.

Debate is changing: The nature of the world reaction to greenhouse is changing and is about to change even more dramatically with the release of Britain’s Stern review on the economics of climate change in a week or so.

Macfarlane on song: For Australia’s Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who has been quietly supporting nuclear power in Australia for years and sees it as part of the answer to greenhouse emissions, the debate has turned.

Ideology not enough: “People in the street accept that greenhouse emissions and climate change are a problem, but they also expect practical solutions to the problem,” Macfarlane said. “People don’t accept ideological answers any more. That’s why they are prepared to discuss the possibility of nuclear power in Australia.”

Aust "leading the way"? Macfarlane argued that there was a browning of the emissions debate and industry, and economists were trying to find answers. “The rest of the world is now coming to us because we are leading the way in private and public partnerships in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Questionmarks growing about Kyoto: Howard and Macfarlane have steadfastly ruled out the prospect of carbon taxes in Australia to establish a European-style emissions trading system, which is supported in principle by the state Labor governments. But again the argument over the benefits of a Kyoto-backed emissions trading system has shifted with the the patchy start to the EU emissions trading scheme which has provided large profits for power generators but has had no net effect on greenhouse emissions.

EU falling behind targets: Last week a market analysis of the first phase of the EU’s system found that the EU was highly unlikely to meet its Kyoto Protocol emissions targets. According to global consultancy Cap Gemini the 15 EU countries in the scheme are “300 million metric tonnes of CO2 away from meeting their Kyoto Protocol objective, with the notable exception of the UK”.

Not a great record: CO2 and greenhouse gases emissions, moreover, were increasing. In 2005, energy accounted for about 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, while electricity accounted for 38 per cent of CO2 emissions, the report said. “The combined EU-15 emissions were only 0.9 per cent below 1990 levels."

The Australian, 21/10/2006, p. 3

Source: Erisk Net  

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