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Kyoto Recalcitrants Unite

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  • Mike Neuman
    Great title. The concluding paragraph ain t bad either: ... Not only did Australia have its hottest year on record, the planet had its second hottest, behind
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9, 2006
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      Great title. The concluding paragraph ain't bad either:

      "... Not only did Australia have its hottest year on record, the
      planet had its second hottest, behind 1998. More permafrost in
      Siberia thawed, releasing methane as well as enormous quantities of
      water. Arctic and Antarctic ice continued to melt and the "conveyor
      belt" that ferries climate-tempering water around the globe showed
      signs of slowing. If it stops, the climate-change horror film The Day
      After Tomorrow will be more science fact than fiction..."

      from: "The Australian" (Australia)
      http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,17747938,00.html

      Mike
      --------------------------
      Kyoto recalcitrants unite

      Steve Lewis, political reporter, and Leigh Dayton, science writer
      07jan06

      WHEN the world's most powerful woman, Condoleezza Rice, flies into
      Sydney midweek, she will join a raft of business and political
      heavyweights trying to resolve arguably the most pressing issue
      facing the world.

      With exquisite timing, the US Secretary of State, accompanied by an
      entourage of heavyweights including US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman
      and presidential adviser James Connaugh, will arrive as the top-
      billing attendee at the first Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean
      Development and Climate, also known as AP6, just as Australia has
      recorded its hottest year on record.

      This six-nation, two-day talkfest brings together some of the world's
      most advanced economies and some of its biggest polluters. The big
      six - the US, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China and India - are
      responsible for about 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, energy
      consumption, gross domestic product and population. China and India,
      on their own, produce more than 20 per cent of the gases believed to
      warm the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and methane. It's
      little wonder, then, that the six have forged a new climate pact.

      They're determined to go "beyond Kyoto" and to work on technical ways
      to curb the alarming growth in greenhouse gases. Think carbon capture
      (geosequestration), so-called "clean coal" and possibly even a new
      generation of nuclear power.

      As Australia's east coast recovers from one of the hottest and driest
      Christmas periods on record, the six-nation summit will steer a path
      away from imposing mandatory targets on business and energy vehicles.
      After all, Australia and the US have determinedly resisted calls to
      ratify the Kyoto protocol, arguing that the target 5.2 per cent cut
      in 1990 levels of greenhouse gases it imposes on signatories, with a
      special target for Australia allowing it to increase emissions to 108
      per cent of 1990 levels, would put unreasonable constraints on the
      two countries' economies.

      Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell is hardly a climate change
      denier, but he reflects the distaste the US and Australia have for
      the Kyoto agreement. It's a non-issue, he said last month after
      returning from an international climate conference in
      Montreal. "Signing Kyoto is like catching the 3pm train from
      [Sydney's] Central station when it's five o'clock," he scoffs.

      Although a bevy of scientific and political voices have latched on to
      recent data confirming 2005 as a scorcher, arguing that it is time
      the Howard Government takes more seriously its commitment to climate
      change, this new Asia-Pacific pact is not interested in binding
      targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

      Instead, GeorgeW. Bush talks of "voluntary practical measures ... to
      create new investment opportunities, build local capacity and remove
      barriers to the introduction of clean, more efficient technologies".

      John Howard, who will break his holiday to speak at the climate
      change summit, is a paid-up member of this voluntary, technology-led
      club that has turned its back on Kyoto and its Europe-led cheer
      squad. With the Australian economy heavily reliant on the export of
      minerals - coal exports to China in 2004, for instance, were worth
      $400 million, twice the value of just two years earlier - the
      Government has been criticised by many for not doing enough to tackle
      the challenge of global warming. Critics say this Government has
      adopted at best a tokenistic attitude towards promotion of eco-
      friendly alternative renewable energies, such as wind and solar.

      Campbell, who will also break his summer holidays to attend the
      Sydney talkfest, argues that without strong economic conditions,
      governments will be unable to make the necessary investments to
      tackle the scourge of greenhouse. "The whole underpinning [of
      Australia's approach] is a strong philosophy that we need economic
      growth, but with reduced greenhouse gas emissions," he tells
      Inquirer. "From an environment minister's point of view, we need
      governments that are in the black."

      Critics of this neo-classical approach, such as Greens' leader and
      long-time eco-warrior Senator Bob Brown, believe Australia and the US
      are adopting a head-in-the-sand approach which is out of step with
      most other developed economies. They claim that whether or not
      Australia ratifies Kyoto, it will pay the price for climate change,
      either through the cost of mitigating its impact or as pro-Kyoto
      trading partners establish domestic policies that disadvantage non-
      ratifiers.

      Brown argues that Australia is missing out on money-making
      opportunities under Kyoto, citing Britain's investment in a gas-
      powered power station in China, as an example of how countries are
      securing tangible benefits from the pact that Australia refuses to
      endorse. Just don't try that argument with the Prime Minister. The
      man who has invested more energy into cementing Australia's alliance
      with the US than any other recent political figure is a firm advocate
      of the "voluntary" approach of AP6 members.

      With Australia largely relying on its abundance of fossil fuels to
      power its energy needs - and underpin its economic success - Howard
      sees no reason to change radically the emphasis on developing ways to
      generate power more cleanly, using coal.

      "I have never seen the logic of Australia unreasonably penalising
      herself by saying in effect we're going to try to move away from the
      use of fuels in which Australia has a natural advantage," he said in
      July, when the AP6 was first announced.

      With such commercial imperatives driving the environmental debate, it
      is little wonder the Government is talking up the business
      opportunities from the two-day Sydney summit. It will bring together
      a raft of high-level corporate figures, the strongest line-up of
      energy powerbrokers ever to assemble in Australia.

      Significant offshore players - American Electric Power, NEC
      Corporation, China Huaneng Group, Korea East-West Power Corp and the
      Steel Authority of India, to name but a few - will join Australian
      representatives including chief executive of Xstrata Coal, Peter
      Coates, managing director of Chevron Australia, Jay Johnson, the boss
      of BP Solar, Mark Twidell and chief executive of Rio Tinto Aluminium
      Oscar Groeneveld.

      The head of the Asian Development Bank will also jet into Sydney,
      underscoring the commercial potential of this inaugural event.
      In Australia, the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which
      represents carbon-intensive industries such as electricity,
      petroleum, aluminium and coal, sees the gathering as a practical way
      of persuading the sector to invest in change.

      "I'm expecting that this extraordinarily high-level meeting will be
      recognised as the start of a genuine effort to tackle climate change
      and pollution reduction by focusing on the technologies that need to
      be developed," network head John Daley says.

      Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says the commercial spin-offs could
      be significant and long-term. "I'm out there to get a business
      outcome," he says, while cautioning against being "overly ambitious".
      But with such a strong corporate line-up, Macfarlane believes this
      first AP6 meeting will lay down important markers for the future.
      "How are we going to share this technology? How do you use the
      horsepower of business? How do you set out a work plan for the next
      12 months?" he says.

      Climate scientists hope the answers are forthcoming in time. They
      worry that the planet is dangerously close to the "tipping point",
      beyond which global warming will be impossible to stop. The hot
      topics in climate research this year were just that, they say,
      ticking off alarming news.

      Not only did Australia have its hottest year on record, the planet
      had its second hottest, behind 1998. More permafrost in Siberia
      thawed, releasing methane as well as enormous quantities of water.
      Arctic and Antarctic ice continued to melt and the "conveyor belt"
      that ferries climate-tempering water around the globe showed signs of
      slowing. If it stops, the climate-change horror film The Day After
      Tomorrow will be more science fact than fiction.
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