Nothing left me less impressed in the Labor Party’s policy than their platform on climate change. Given the current irrelevance of Kyoto their policy was indistinguishable from that of the Coalition.
Greenhouse gas cuts would only be made in Australia if developing countries agreed to make cuts, no interim targets were specified and no details on a carbon trading scheme provided – recall this was the policy that John Howard espoused and which was subject to so much criticism from the Green left.
The Labor Party did agree to 60% cuts by 2050 but, let us be honest, undertakings to deliver outcomes in more than 40 years time count for nothing in Australian politics. They are vacuous.
Ratifying Kyoto was a largely symbolic event since the force of this agreement runs out in 2012. The post-Kyoto environment is what matters. Paul Kelly was one of the few to sense the gap between Labor Party rhetoric and practical policy-making at the time of the Kyoto ratification.
When the Labor Party declined to spell out interim targets for 2020 and were criticised the standard response of their supporter running dogs was to say – ‘the Labor Party is entitled to wait for the results of the Garnaut Review’. ‘Give them time!’.
I never bought this response – how can you firmly adhere to 2050 targets without having intermediate targets at 2020? It makes no sense. What could Garnaut offer that was not already well known?
Well now Garnaut has made his interim report, called for 2020 targets and for steeper 2050 targets. It is an excellent report. He rubbished the Labor Party’s renewable target but, most of all, suggested the need to get real on climate change.
It seems however that the Labor Party is already distancing itself from his views. They have the right to do this because Garnaut is not an elected official but one hopes this is not just a sign of further inaction.
I quote from The Age:
I think the Liberal Party policy on climate change was excessively cautious and believe Labor Party policy as yet offers no substantive improvement. It is easy to promise decisive action on climate change but, when making these promises, it is necessary to consider the costs of actually implementing policy. John Howard understood this and moved with (excessive) caution. The Labor Party deceived voters because of the apparent political difficulties.
‘The federal government has tried to play down its chief climate change adviser's call for even deeper cuts to dangerous greenhouse gases.
Economist Ross Garnaut in his interim report on climate change policy says the government should set a 2020 greenhouse target this year and consider setting a tougher 2050 target.
"Australia should be ready to go beyond its stated 60% reduction target by 2050 in an effective global agreement that includes developing nations," Prof Garnaut said in a statement.
The report says such an approach would see the nation play a positive role in global talks for a post-Kyoto regime.
"Australia should formulate a position on the contribution that it would be prepared to make to an effective global agreement, and offer to implement that stronger position if an appropriately structured international agreement were reached," it says.
It calls on the government to set an interim 2020 target later this year similar to those accepted by other developed nations.....
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Prof Garnaut's report would be an "important input" to government policy.
"We welcome Professor Garnaut's input ... of course we will also be looking at other inputs, such as modelling from the Australian Treasury," she told reporters.....
Senator Wong called the interim report - the final document is due in September - "early thinking" on the policy response to climate change.
The Australian Greens say the federal government is back-pedalling fast on its climate change promises. Greens leader Bob Brown claims the government is trying to minimise the importance of Prof Garnaut because he has followed the science.
"Penny Wong has reduced Ross Garnaut to input," Senator Brown told reporters in Canberra.
"That sounds to me like the Rudd government is subject to coal capture.....
....The Australian Coal Association welcomed Prof Garnaut's acceptance of clean coal.’ (my bold).
It easy to promise but tough to deliver in a world where powerful economic interests play a role. I prefer excessive caution to being fed lies.