While Australia has been transfixed by the meltdown of the Liberal (=conservative) party over climate change, there have been a string of positive developments around the world, which make a positive outcome from Copenhagen, leading over the next year to an intermational agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, much more likely than it seemed two years ago, or even six months ago. Among the most important developments
- Obama’s commitment to a 17 per cent (rel 2005) target, which essentially puts the Administration’s credibility behind Waxman-Markey
- China’s acceptance of a quantitative emissions target, based on emissions/GDP ratios, but implying a substantial cut relative to business as usual
- The change of government in Japan, from do-little LDP to activist DPJ
- EU consensus on the need for stronger action
- Acceptance of the principle of compensation for developing countries, and acceptance by countries like India that they should take part in a global agreement and argue for compensation
A notable consequence has been the announcement by Canadian PM Harper that he will go to Copenhagen, having previously said he wouldn’t. Canada is a hotbed (coldbed?) of climate science delusionism, and Harper has reneged on Canada’s Kyoto commitments. That was fine while Bush was in, but now Harper finds himself on the outer with Obama and threatened with suspension from the Commonwealth. More serious measures, such as trade sanctions, are being kept out of view for the moment, but they are already being discussed in both EU and US circles. (I should say that coverage of Canada in the Oz media is very limited, so if I’ve got all this wrong, I hope readers will correct me).
Harper’s embarrassing backflip is an indication of the silliness of the idea, common among discussions in the Liberal Party here, that Australia is in danger of “getting in front of the rest of the world”. If the fruit loops led by Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin get any share of political power in this country, even the partial veto associated with control of the Opposition, we run the risk of finding ourselves at the back of the pack, and paying a hefty price.
It now seems virtually certain that the Liberals will dump their current leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who negotiated a very emitter-friendly deal on an emissions trading scheme with the Labor government, and replace him with a moderate (as these things go), Joe Hockey, who strongly supported the deal. But the price for Hockey will be going back on the deal.
At this stage, Labor PM Kevin Rudd appears willling to wait until after Copenhagen and bring the bill back then. But it seems unlikely that anything will have changed.
As with most international agreements, the outcome from Copenhagen will prove far short of ideal. But once the world is on the right track, and it becomes evident that the costs of stabilising the global climate are far smaller than the delusionist doomsayers have pretended, it should be possible to improve. With luck we will be in time not just to save ourselves from the worst-case disasters but to give vulnerable systems like the Great Barrier Reef a chance at survival.