3- We are meeting our Kyoto obligations?

Australia has the highest per capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth due to our dependence on coal. We have one of the lowest renewable energy targets in the developed world. Australia’s emissions are rising faster than any other developed country. Over the last 10 years, our emissions as a nation have risen by almost 25%. How could it possibly be that we are meeting our Kyoto obligation?.

Australia is the only industrialised nation still to engage in wide-spread land-clearing (mostly in Queensland). By pure coincidence the rate of land clearing spiked in Australia in 1990- the baseline Kyoto target year. In 1990, land clearing in Australia stood at a whopping 675 000 hectares. For various reasons since 1990, land-clearing in Australia has declined. This reduction in land-clearing has resulted in a reduction in emissions (trees absorb CO2……chop less of them down…..it’s a good thing).

At the eleventh hour of the Kyoto negotiations, Australia insisted that this reduction in land-clearing should be taken into account when considering our emission reduction targets. This was accepted, and became known as the “Australia clause”.

The “Australia clause” meant that Australia could meet its Kyoto target of a 108% increase in emissions over 1990 levels without having to do ANYTHING about reducing CO2 emissions. This was a huge victory for the coal industry in Australia.

Our country has refused to ratify Kyoto. Our politicians know that the 1990 peak in land-clearing was a one off. The Australia Clause will not help Australia next time round. After 2012, Australia will actually have to reduce emissions to meet any target, and that is something that the fossil fuel industry will fight tooth and nail. That is why the Australian Government has not ratified Kyoto.

As things stand, because Australia and the United States are the only two countries not to join Kyoto, they now form a “coalition of the unwilling” when it comes to a global solution to climate change. If Australia signs Kyoto, it would leave the USA alone in its refusal to do the same.

Matthew Nott

2- Kyoto, the bare bones

Climate Change is such an urgent issue that it demands changes to individual behaviour. Solutions will be found as communities get together to come up with strategic action plans. However, climate change will not be beaten without government action.

The hole in the Ozone layer is a case in point. We did not fix the problem by asking people to stop using chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). We did it through government legislation. People were forced to stop using CFC’s

When it comes to climate change, we need targets; incentives to reach targets; the big polluters to show leadership; and we need those who can afford it to get the ball rolling.

It was this approach that was discussed in Kyoto in 1997, an international meeting convened by the United Nations. The delegates to Kyoto declared that industrial nations should reduce their CO2 emissions by 5.2 % below 1990 levels by 2012. Developing countries would be obligated to cut their emissions in the subsequent round of the treaty in 2012.

Australia negotiated hard for lenient targets, and were successful. Under Kyoto, Australia was allowed to increase its emissions by 108% compared with 1990 levels. On Environment Day 2002, John Howard announced that Australia would not ratify the Kyoto agreement. Why did our Prime Minister object?

Firstly, the Prime Minister tells us that joining Kyoto will damage the economy and cost jobs. On the other hand, we are told that we are meeting our Kyoto targets, and the economy is booming. Unemployment is at a 30 year low. It’s hard to put that together.

Secondly, Australia will not join Kyoto until developing countries like India and China show leadership. Hang on, China’s renewable energy target is much higher than Australia’s, and increasing. China is already showing leadership. There are 400 million people in India and China who are without electricity, but can we expect them to reduce their emissions before we do!

We are told that Kyoto is Euro-centric. (Did you know that Austria’s national emissions are lower than the state of Victoria’s)

Finally, we are told that Kyoto is ineffective, and deeply flawed. Tim Flannery would certainly agree that Kyoto is not without fault, but states that we do not have the time to wait for a new Kyoto in 2012. We need targets.

Australia is set to come close to meeting its Kyoto obligation. That strikes me as strange. Over the last 10 years, Australia has increased its emissions by 25%. Australia’s emissions are set to continue rising. Australia’s emissions as a nation (20 million) exceed Indonesia’s emissions (200 million). We are a high polluting nation. Are we REALLY meeting our international obligations? Find out next week.

Matthew Nott

1- Kyoto or not Kyoto?

(a 3 part series)

On the one hand, we have a scientific consensus saying that Global Warming is a critical and urgent issue. Amongst other things, we are told that we must drastically rethink our dependence on fossil fuels.

On the other hand, we have a fossil fuel industry in this country that is worth 27 billion dollars a year. A lot of people want to keep selling coal. A lot of very powerful people want to dramatically increase our dependence on coal.

The coal industry is trying hard to downplay the significance of climate change. It is amazing how difficult it is for the coal industry to see the urgency of climate change, when their future depends on them not seeing it. This presents an enormous conflict, science versus the coal industry. In Australia, the fossil fuel lobby wins that competition, hands down.

In NSW, the state Labor Government is opening up new coal mines. They are expanding the Newcastle port’s capacity to sell coal, and they are opening up new coal fired power stations. We are mining, burning and selling coal quicker than ever before.

In Australia, the percentage of energy derived from renewable sources has been in steady decline. Why do we make so little use of renewable energy when it is the quickest way of reducing our emissions? Politicians tells us that renewables will only ever be a peripheral part of the solution, because we are addicted to coal.

Australia has not ratified Kyoto. No matter how you look at it, this is a victory for the coal mining industry. Certainly, the coal industry were heavily involved in Australia’s Kyoto negotiations. Australia’s response to climate change seems to involve getting as much CO2 into the air as quickly as possible. Australia’s emission have risen by 25% since 1990, and are set to continue rising at an accelerating rate. That is the price you pay for a country that rides on the back of coal. A quick profit at any cost.

I think it is important to discuss Kyoto. It is an issue that Clean Energy For Eternity has tried to avoid, because it is overtly political. That is a minefield for a community group, but the issue of Kyoto is too important to ignore.

Next week, the bare bones of Kyoto, and why Australia is not part of it.

Matthew Nott